As the City of Seattle tries to get Google and Facebook to follow existing local laws on political ad transparency, both of Washington's US Senators are trying to get Congress to pass a first-of-its-kind federal law that would force tech giants to make digital ad data public in national elections.
Called the Honest Ads Act, this proposed measure was crafted by Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. She introduced the bill earlier this year as a direct response to the Russian tactic of buying political ads on American digital platforms to influence the last US presidential election. Essentially, the Honest Ads Act would mandate nationally the kind of disclosure from digital ad companies that Seattle law already requires locally.
In response to questions from The Stranger last week, Senator Patty Murray said she will be signing on as a co-sponsor of the Honest Ads Act, which already has bipartisan support (including from Republican Senator John McCain).
“The public deserves to know who is behind political ads, which is why television stations have been required to disclose this information for decades," Murray said in a statement. "It’s past time to bring this same transparency into the 21st century by requiring online advertisers to adhere to the same standard.”
Here in Seattle, I recently found a stark disparity in how local television stations and local tech giant offices are complying with Seattle's existing law on political ad disclosure—even though, unlike current federal law, the law in this city applies to Facebook just as much as it applies to KING 5.
After that disparity was reported, the City of Seattle sent letters to Facebook and Google telling the companies to comply with local law by January 2, 2018.
For her part, Senator Maria Cantwell is "supportive of" the proposed federal Honest Ads Act, though apparently not yet ready to become a co-sponsor. She is, however, a co-sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act, introduced by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
That measure was also crafted in response to Russian election interference, and it is specifically aimed at keeping foreign money out of future US elections.