The Guardian: 'It Might Work Too Well': the Dark Art of Political Advertising Online

Alan Gould was hitting a wall. It was the late 1990s, and the political advertising operative had an idea about using a relatively newfangled tool – banner ads on web sites – to promote political candidates. “It was pretty clear to me at the time that the ability to target and tailor messaging was perfect for political campaigns,” Gould recalled recently. “I did a whole presentation on the internet and the power to connect, track, do fundraising, target.”

But when Gould finished his pitches, he would be met with blank stares. “I was a very lonely pied piper,” he says.


“In an ideal world, with a fully functioning Congress, there would be hearings around the Honest Ads Act, and you would have Facebook and Google and Twitter and experts testify to shine a light on the nature of political advertising,” said Brendan Fischer, director of FEC reform at the Campaign Legal Center. “We’re not close to that at all.”


“If we farm these important democratic responsibilities out to a private company, today they might be regulating antisemitism, but tomorrow they’re regulating what people can say about the Honest Ads Act,” Fischer said.

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