FEC Staffers Don’t Like Facebook’s Request For Ad Disclosure Exception

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The Federal Election Commission’s staff has recommended that the agency reject a request by Facebook to make ads on the social networking website exempt from campaign finance disclosure requirements.

But the FEC staff recommends that the agency find that candidate ads on Facebook wouldn’t have to disclose who paid for them as long as the website that the advertisements linked to disclosed that information.“The Commission concludes that neither the ‘small items’ exception nor the ‘impracticable’ exception applies to Facebook’s ads but that the Act’s disclaimer requirement is satisfied if a Facebook ad links to a website or a Facebook page containing a full disclaimer that is clear and conspicuous as required… and that both the disclaimer and the Facebook ad are paid for and authorized by the same person or persons,” the draft opinion reads.

Commissioners will consider the draft advisory opinion at their meeting next week.

The FEC has largely taken a hands off approach to regulating the online activity of campaigns, Commission Chair Cynthia Bauerly noted during an event hosted by Public Citizen on Thursday. Bauerly said the FEC took the approach of keeping “out of the Internet’s way” and only regulating paid advertisements.

“It is a challenge, and the challenge is knowing exactly how to respond to it. We could update our rules to figure out what to do with Twitter, and I’m guessing in five years people will think of Twitter as we now think of Napster — something old, something from a long time ago,” Bauerly said.

“I think its always dangerous to try to keep up with technology because technology is always changing, and I think those innovations are very good for campaigns, it’s a way for the public to be involved in a grassroots way,” she said. “You don’t have to have a lot of money to push out information on your own.”

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