While Mark Zuckerberg was facing questions from politicians, Twitter announced that it’s endorsing the Honest Ads Act, which is seen as a major stepping stone for the bill.
Twitter is moving forward on our commitment to providing transparency for online ads. We believe the Honest Ads Act provides an appropriate framework for such ads and look forward to working with bill sponsors and others to continue to refine and advance this important proposal.— Twitter Public Policy (@Policy) April 10, 2018
What does that mean?
The Honest Ads Act was introduced last October, and it basically sets out specific transparency requirements for social media platforms, websites and ad networks which see more than 50 million unique visitors a month.
The two key elements of the bill involve such platforms maintaining a public file of all electioneering activities by any person or group who spends more than $500 total on ads. That public file would include descriptions of any audience targeting and specific details of the ads purchased, available for view at any time.
Facebook’s been working to implement similar with their ‘View Ads’ option on Pages, which shows all ads any Page is running at a given time.
The other key requirement is that
“…online platforms to make all reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate.”
Essentially, the Honest Ads Act is a safeguard measure to try and stop foreign interference in US politics - but the effectiveness of such a bill is questionable, considering those that would utilize these less than ethical options are not likely to be swayed by official regulations. That’s why Facebook’s working to better identify such ads, broadening their terms for political ads to also cover ‘issues content’, which will help them detect misuse, without necessarily requiring active compliance.
But the Honest Ads Act does give authorities an overarching focus, a clear set of parameters to work towards.
Of course, if Congress decides that Facebook, and social media more broadly, should come under more strict regulation, such a bill might lose its effectiveness, but with Twitter and Facebook working together, that could put pressure on Google to join, which would enable them to work together on their own form of digital policy for such process.