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Press Release

New Senate Bill Addresses Loophole that Enabled Russian-Backed Ads in 2016 Election

Sens. Klobuchar (D-Minn), McCain (R-AZ), and Warner (D-VA) introduced a bill today that would revisit campaign finance law in the internet age.

October 19, 2017

Wash­ing­ton, D.C. – Lawmakers in the Senate intro­duced a bill today that would revisit campaign finance law in the inter­net age. The legis­la­tion seeks to address a loop­hole that allowed Russian entit­ies to purchase polit­ical ads on major social media plat­forms ahead of the 2016 elec­tion without detec­tion.

The Honest Ads Act of 2017 was intro­duced by Sens. Klobuchar (D-Minn), McCain (R-AZ), and Warner (D-VA). The bill is Congress’ first response to calls to prevent hostile foreign powers or their oper­at­ives from purchas­ing polit­ical ads on the inter­net in future Amer­ican elec­tions. 

Under the legis­la­tion, polit­ical activ­ity online would become subject to the same kind of disclos­ure rules that currently apply to polit­ical advert­ise­ments in radio or TV. The bill would do this by expand­ing the defin­i­tion of “elec­tion­eer­ing commu­nic­a­tions” under the Bipar­tisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which failed to include paid polit­ical advert­ise­ments online. This expan­ded defin­i­tion will bar more foreign spend­ing, since foreign nation­als are prohib­ited from making elec­tion­eer­ing commu­nic­a­tions. The Honest Ads Act would also increase trans­par­ency by requir­ing social media compan­ies to estab­lish a public data­base of paid polit­ical advert­ise­ments.

While respond­ing to the threat of foreign inter­fer­ence will take a multi­pronged effort, this bipar­tisan proposal is an import­ant first step towards protect­ing our demo­cracy from elec­tion meddling in the future.

For more inform­a­tion or to sched­ule an inter­view, contact Beat­riz Alde­reguia at (646) 292–8369 or beat­riz.alde­reguia@nyu.edu

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