AdWeek: Proposed Legislation Makes Some Online Political Ads More Transparent

While “follow the money” has been a phrase associated with politics since the Richard Nixon era, newly proposed bipartisan legislation targeting online political spending could make it easier to trace the money in the digital era.


Meredith McGehee, said increasing disclosures is the best way to fight foreign interference in elections. She said the Honest Ads Act is “a good faith effort to get that conversation started,” adding that it’s important to make online political spending more transparent.

“Listeners are entitled to know by whom they are being persuaded, and that from the radio days has applied,” McGehee said. “And there is no reason it shouldn’t apply for online platforms.”

She added: “What’s particularly interesting is with these online platforms they have unprecedented, uncanny ability to slice and dice their audience with such specificity and such targeting that it makes their ability to direct their messages more powerful.”

While McGehee is in support of the bill, she pointed out that it’s not going to prevent everything. For example, she said 50 percent of ads bought by Russian troll farms were $3 or less, and Facebook said 99 percent of them were less than $1,000.

“You really have to think though it’s not the same as buying an ad on television or even on radio,” she said. “Scope of money is very different, so that’s why it’s so important to have these hearings so we can get more information on the public record and ensure that everyone has a complete picture of the kinds of efforts that are being run by not only Russia but other entities as well.”

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