Facebook and Google told federal election officials they are open to greater oversight of the lucrative business of online political advertising, a shift for the tech giants who acknowledged that their ad platforms were exploited by Russian operatives during and after the 2016 election.
Google even took it a step further than its rivals, telling regulators that they should create a broad rule that would ban foreign entities from buying any kind of political ad aimed at influencing voters, not just the ones that mention candidates. Russian operatives generated and published “issue” ads on Facebook far more frequently than those that explicitly promoted candidates. Many of the issue ads sought to divide American society over politically charged topics such as immigration, Black Lives Matter and gun rights.
Facebook did not offer a position on issue-based ads to election officials, despite its admission that 90 percent of the Russian-bought content that ran on its network did not mention Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
The comments were submitted to the Federal Election Commission as the agency considers new disclosure requirements for online advertisements. The discussion process at the FEC comes as lawmakers are pushing their own proposal to boost the transparency of digital ads, and as Silicon Valley faces heightened scrutiny in Washington.
Few companies have faced more pressure from lawmakers than Facebook, which has acknowledged that a Russian troll farm generated about 3,000 ads on its network as well as other free posts that collectively reached 126 million users.
Twitter also expressed openness to greater regulation, but asked officials to consider “the limited and valuable space available for political advertisements” on its platform.