Facebook can’t run political ads without disclosing who is paying for them, the Federal Election Commission effectively ruled this week.
At issue was an effort by the social networking empire to exempt the 160-character ads that appear next to user profiles from the FEC requirement that all political advertising be accompanied by a disclaimer that reveals the ads’ underwriters. Attorneys for Facebook argued that that “paid for” disclosure language would almost completely consume the space for the advertisers’ intended message.
But FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub concluded that Facebook doesn’t warrant the same sort of exemptions that the commission has granted for advertising in constricted physical spaces, such as pens that candidates sometimes distribute, or in circumstances where it would be difficult to include the financial disclosure language, such as skywriting.
The Republican and Democratic FEC commissioners could not forge a compromise ruling on the Facebook request, which means that an earlier ruling, in a case brought by Google, remains binding on character-limited Internet ads, said Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center. That ruling requires the short-text ads to include a hyperlink connecting to an web page that identifies the ad’s sponsor.
Hotline subscribers can keep up with developments on the law of politics our Campaign Law Watch page.
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