“I’m candidate John Smith and I approve this message.” We’ve all heard political candidates say that statement on radio and tv advertising. But until recently, there weren’t any requirements for ads on the internet or platforms like Facebook and Twitter. It was like the wild west. Unfortunately, the freedom from regulation was exploited during the 2016 election. So change is coming.

Last week, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) held hearings to determine what rules the agency should impose on online political advertisements.This isn’t the first time the government has stepped in with rules to combat problems with political ads.  

The familiar “I approve this message” statement was passed into law after politicians suffered anonymous attack ads. Requiring a candidate to state they approve the ad was designed to reduce the number of attack ads and stop anonymous ones for good.

Facebook has implemented its own new set of rules in attempt to keep government regulations at bay.      Starting in May, people wanting to run political ads now need to clear a three-step verification process.  

Requirements for pages that are political in nature were strengthened. Facebook introduced their own  “paid for” disclaimer and created a publicly accessible archive of political ads. After only a month in place, it’s too soon to determine if it’s effective. But Facebook is working hard to avoid a repeat of 2016 and the scandal surrounding Russian ads.

Interestingly, Facebook didn’t give public testimony at the FEC hearings, instead Facebook officials chose to submit a written statement. Twitter and Google officials also chose to submit written statements rather than appearing in person. The hearings would indicate the Commission isn’t likely to accept voluntary changes.

Some of the issues under consideration by the FEC include:
Size of the disclaimer
Placement of the disclaimer
Length of the disclaimer statement on videos
Universal standards or adaptive requirements based on platform and type of ad
Method of disclaimer

The FEC chairman has indicated a desire to have the requirements in place prior to the November elections. It’s important for candidate’s campaign to stay on top of the changing landscape and not get caught unprepared. Several campaigns found themselves unable to advertise in the crucial weeks prior to the primary elections because of the changes on Facebook.

Online advertising is an essential piece of any campaign strategy for connecting to supporters. The changing landscape of rules and regulations are potentially an unwelcome headache for candidates who have taken a DIY approach on social media.

If you want to stay current and in compliance with digital marketing, contact cyberclimb.kristi@gmail.com or cyberclimb.joy@gmail.com . Together, our team has more than 40 years of experience with politics and campaigns as well as more than a decade with digital marketing. Check out our website at www.cyberclimb.com to explore the possibilities. The first consultation session is free.