November 2, 2017

Measure would require online political ads to disclose backers

ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK

A new measure in Springfield would require online political ads to disclose their funding source.

If made law, the bill would require social media political ads to explain to a viewer where they come from.

This has become a hot-button topic nationally. Facebook recently disclosed that accounts connected to Russia had purchased political ads on their medium shortly before the 2016 election.

Sandy Davidson, Curator’s Distinguished Teaching Professor with the University of Missouri School of Journalism, said transparency is paramount in terms of social media advertising but there are already federal laws in place that punish false advertising on any medium.

"If we’re talking about deceptive speech, the Supreme Court has already made rulings on that," she said. "The [Federal Trade Commission] has been very good in that area."

Regardless, she says the public could find value in more transparency.

"We need to be able to weigh the information that we’re getting," she said.

Lawmakers in Springfield want to curtail anonymous political advertising after one of them was targeted by such an ad.

The measure stems from an anonymous political ad on Facebook accusing State Sen. Andy Manar for voting in favor of a bill that would have been harmful to a coal-fired power plant in his district when, in fact, he did not. Should the measure pass, it would ban anonymous political advertisements as it currently is in other forms of media.

The FTC currently requires bloggers to disclose if they have a financial relationship with a product they are promoting.