A wide swath of Americans just sent a clear message to the Federal Election Commission: Digital political ads should come with notices saying who purchased them, as is the case on TV and in print.
Today the political ads that appear on mobile devices and PCs don't require a disclaimer saying who purchased them. Ads on traditional media, on the other hand, come with long disclosures that ensure voters have information about who's behind issue-based ads.
More than two dozen members of Congress and a broad range of political groups, individuals and companies posted comments to the FEC's notice that it was considering ending the exemption.
The commission's Oct. 10 move reopened a debate that had been dormant since 2011, when Congress granted the current exemptions after digital ad sellers argued that the small size of mobile screens made such disclaimers impractical.
Yet revelations of how Russian propaganda groups placed divisive ads online using Google, Facebook and Twitter during the 2016 election campaign suggest the time has come to close that loophole, some of these groups say.
"Recent developments have highlighted several weaknesses of the current system. One ... is the ability of foreign actors to ... improperly influence U.S. elections," wrote Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which first lobbied against the exemption six years ago.