Russian Federation probes spur lawmakers on election security, social media

Facebook What are they really thinking

McCain, a longtime supporter of regulating campaign finances, and two Democratic senators, Amy Klobuchar and Mark Warner, plan to introduce the legislation on Thursday, according to a statement from their offices on Wednesday.

The issue started weeks ago when Facebook revealed that it had discovered advertisements bought by a Russia-linked entity during the 2016 presidential election.

"Ensuring transparency and accountability remain encoded into our democracy in the 21st century has taken on new importance and relevance in the wake of the 2016 election", said Alexander B. Howard, deputy director of the Sunlight Foundation, which has been a loud voice for campaign reforms, including heightened disclosures for political ads. "This is part of that effort". It would require greater disclosure about online political ads, putting the World Wide Web more in-line with radio and TV.

Until now, Congress's reaction to Russian meddling has been to open investigations and to strengthen economic sanctions against the country.

At least two congressional committees and special counsel Robert Mueller are conducting probes into the allegations and to investigate whether there was any collusion with members of the Trump campaign team.

But lawmakers in both parties say now is the time to act, before the 2018 midterm elections, when intelligence officials expect a continued Russian effort to interfere. US officials also have said Russia's alleged meddling didn't go so far as to change any votes in the election.

Facebook has turned the alleged Russian ads over to Congress, and last week, the company's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said she "absolutely" supports the public release of the advertisements. The Senate Intelligence Committee is planning a November 1 hearing on the issue, and has invited representatives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter to testify.

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Last month, after US regulators and criminal investigators began looking at the Russia-linked ads, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said his company would take several voluntary steps to make political ads more transparent, such as allowing anyone to seem them no matter whom they target. "At the end of the day, it is not too much to ask that our most innovative digital companies work with us by exercising additional judgment and providing some transparency".

Facebook lobbied for years to prevent disclosure requirements for online media.

Social media would have to follow the same rules as television and radio stations.

Warner and Klobuchar said they were working with the companies and think the legislation is stronger than when they began, but also argued that voluntarily disclosing political ads would not cut it.

In addition, Twitter has taken action against suspected Russian troll accounts, suspending 22 accounts that corresponded with fake accounts used on Facebook.

"I'm sure early on, in the early days of Facebook and Google, there weren't a lot of these paid political ads". "Our laws should be as sophisticated as those who are trying to manipulate us or to break the law".

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