WASHINGTON, D.C. — As National Cybersecurity Awareness Month begins today, U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger cosponsored a bipartisan bill to crack down on foreign actors attempting to influence U.S. elections through online political advertising.
According to multiple intelligence reports, the Russian government attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election through the purchase of political ads on digital platforms. To date, the identities of the purchasers largely remain a mystery to the public due to outdated laws that have failed to keep up with evolving technology.
The bipartisan Honest Ads Act would require online political advertisements to follow the same transparency and disclosure standards as political ads on television, radio, and satellite platforms. By strengthening the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) rules regarding online political ads, the legislation would give the American public a better idea of the sources of funding behind online ads and help prevent foreign actors from purchasing ads intended to nefariously influence the American electorate.
“Our free and fair elections are the bedrock of our democracy. As a former CIA case officer, I recognize the constant threats posed by foreign governments and entities who wish to undermine the trust of the American people in our electoral process. To protect the integrity of our democratic system from these foreign interests, we must give the FEC additional authority to crack down on undisclosed political ads on social media channels and across the internet,” said Spanberger. “This bipartisan bill is a commonsense step toward bringing greater security and transparency to our elections—and it recognizes a clear vulnerability in our system. Online ads should be held to the same standard as other political advertisements, and as efforts to mislead the American public continue to grow and evolve, I’ll keep working in a bipartisan way to prevent these malicious influence campaigns.”
Specifically, the Honest Ads Act would improve disclosure requirements for online political advertisements by:
- Amending the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002’s definition of electioneering communication to include paid internet and digital advertisements,
- Requiring digital platforms with at least 50,000,000 monthly viewers to maintain a public file of all electioneering communications purchased by a person or group spending more than $500.00 total on ads published on their platform, and
- Requiring online platforms to make all reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities do not purchase political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate.
The Honest Ads Act is led by U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21). Additionally, companion legislation is led in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Mark Warner (D-VA).
Each October, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security marks National Cybersecurity Awareness Month to raise awareness about the critical importance of cybersecurity and online safety.
The Honest Ads Act was included in the For the People Act (H.R. 1), which Spanberger helped pass in the House earlier this year. H.R. 1 also included Spanberger’s amendment to identify and mitigate possible foreign threats to state and local election infrastructure. Click here to watch her speech on the floor of the House regarding her amendment.
Spanberger is a cosponsor of H.R. 1, which would combat a culture of corruption in Washington by limiting the unmitigated political power of special interests and lobbyists, protecting and expanding the right to vote, and restoring ethics and accountability to the federal government.