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Political ads thrive online. Few agree on how to regulate them.


Political campaigns and stakeholders plan to pour billions of dollars into digital advertising over the next year. However, with the virtual lack of federal guidelines regulating these ads, some states are enacting their own laws, while tech giants are quick to draw the line for acceptable political speech.

The Federal Electoral Commission, the main body responsible for monitoring political reports, is paralyzed by vacancies and disagreements among staff about updating the rules. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is blocking a law aimed at regulating such ads on the Internet.

White House officials have been discussing replacing the entire list of FEC commissioners over the past few weeks, according to people familiar with the talks, which could add to uncertainty. White House and FEC officials declined to comment.

Twitter Inc. announced on Friday that it would ban most political ads, including restricting geographic targeting or keyword targeting for any kind of cause. Facebook, meanwhile, has no plans to scrutinize political ads for fact, despite Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg saying companies would benefit from “clearer rules for the Internet.” Other companies from Pinterest Inc. to LinkedIn from Microsoft Corp. have established site-specific rules.

Some states are trying to fill what advertising industry officials, technology managers, politicians, and analysts call a political vacuum. Several states, including California and New York, recently passed or updated laws requiring advertisers to disclose information, such as who paid for an ad or online platforms set up digital political advertising archives.


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