Dem Floats New Rules For Online Ads After Facebook Reports Sales To Russia  

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September 7, 2017 1:44 p.m.

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee thinks Congress should look into crafting new legislation that would regulate advertisements that are sold and posted on social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), who is helping lead a probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, said on MSNBC Thursday that there is a “gray murky area in the law” right now concerning advertisements that can be sold on social media sites.

He suggested instituting regulations similar to those enforced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that apply to television advertisements.

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“If you put up content on television, even if I can’t find who funded the content, we know whether that content— if it is affecting an election, if it is foreign-based content and you can look at the content,” he said. “Under the internet, we’re not even able, as the American public, to look at the type of ads that these Russians were posting on some of these pages and some of these sites. I think we need to revisit that perhaps from a legal standpoint as well.”

Warner’s remarks come after The Washington Post reported that Facebook officials told congressional investigators that it discovered it had sold $100,000 worth of political advertisements to a Russian company during the 2016 election.

Some of the ads named President Donald Trump and then-opponent Hillary Clinton and some of the accounts that promoted the ads were potentially linked to a “troll farm” in St. Petersburg, Facebook said.   

Warner did not specifically name laws enforced by the FCC, but said people have the right to know if content is “being sponsored by foreign governments.”

“We ought to look at that content no matter who is sponsoring if it is in a political context,” he said.

Warner said he would like to see Facebook and Twitter officials come before his committee because The Washington Post findings “may be just the tip of the iceberg.”

“I’ve got lots of questions about not just Facebook, (but) Twitter and others. … But what is more important is how many other fake accounts or page views or groups that these internet trolls could create that would then in effect reinforce the ads which would push up this news or this hateful information higher on a Facebook news feed,” he said.

“We also had public testimony earlier in the year, from a NATO expert, actually, that let’s take another one of the social media firms, Twitter, that said that 8 percent of all of the Twitter accounts are fake,” he said. “How many of those originate out of Russia? And how many of those were used in the process? We don’t know.” 

Watch the interview below:

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