Adding his voice to the calls for greater transparency in online political ads, Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell recently told The Stranger that digital platforms must follow this city's long-standing law on election ad disclosure.
“It is my belief that Seattle Municipal Code Chapter 2.04 applies to online political advertisements," Harrell said in a statement. "It is very concerning that companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter appear to not be in compliance with the code and they must be held accountable."
Last week, Wayne Barnett—executive director of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission—sent letters to Facebook and Google telling them to comply with this city's law on political ad transparency by January 2, 2018. (The letters came in response to Stranger reporting, here and here, that showed a lack of compliance.)
At the same time, over in DC, both of Washington State's US Senators are backing a new law that would force greater transparency in online political ads at the federal level.
The issue, Senator Patty Murray said, is straightforward: "The public deserves to know who is behind political ads."
In Seattle, the tech giants could face fines of $5,000 for each instance of non-compliance with the city's existing law on political ad transparency. Harrell clearly signaled that he would be monitoring what Facebook and Google do in response to Barnett's January 2 deadline.
"As Chair of the Governance, Equity, and Technology Committee, this issue will be on my workplan early next year and we will closely examine the issue to determine what actions a local municipality can take to ensure compliance," Harrell said. "We should use this opportunity to work with these tech companies for them to better understand the compliance laws that ensure transparency in our electoral process."