Press Releases

Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mark Warner (D-VA) today introduced the Honest Ads Act, bipartisan legislation that would help prevent foreign interference in future elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements.

Russia attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election by buying and placing political ads on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. The content and purchaser(s) of those online advertisements are a mystery to the public because of outdated laws that have failed to keep up with evolving technology. The Honest Ads Act would prevent foreign actors from influencing our elections by ensuring that political ads sold online are covered by the same rules as ads sold on TV, radio, and satellite.

“In the wake of Russia’s attack on the 2016 election, it is more important than ever to strengthen our defenses against foreign interference in our elections,” said Senator McCain. “Unfortunately, U.S. laws requiring transparency in political campaigns have not kept pace with rapid advances in technology, allowing our adversaries to take advantage of these loopholes to deceive millions of American voters with impunity. Our bipartisan legislation would address this serious challenge by expanding landmark campaign finance law to apply to internet and digital communications platforms that command a significant audience. I have long fought to increase transparency and end the corrupting influence of special interests in political campaigns, and I am confident this legislation will modernize existing law to safeguard the integrity of our election system.”

“First and foremost this is an issue of national security – Russia attacked us and will continue to use different tactics to undermine our democracy and divide our country, including by purchasing disruptive online political ads. We have to secure our election systems and we have to do it now – the next election is only 383 days away,” said Senator Klobuchar. “This bipartisan legislation would help protect our democracy by updating our laws to ensure that political ads sold online are covered by the same rules as TV or radio stations – and make them public so Americans can see who is trying to influence them.”

“Online political advertising represents an enormous marketplace, and today there is almost no transparency. The Russians realized this, and took advantage in 2016 to spread disinformation and misinformation in an organized effort to divide and distract us,” said Senator Warner. “Our bipartisan Honest Ads Act extends transparency and disclosure to political ads in the digital space. 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.” 

The Honest Ads Act would enhance the integrity of our democracy by improving 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 who spends more than $500.00 total on ads published on their platform. The file would contain a digital copy of the advertisement, a description of the audience the advertisement targets, the number of views generated, the dates and times of publication, the rates charged, and the contact information of the purchaser.
  • Requiring 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.

Companion legislation to the Honest Ads Act is being introduced today in the House of Representatives by Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Mike Coffman (R-CO).

Senator McCain has been a champion of campaign finance reform for decades. As a lead author of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, he has long advocated of transparency in the American electoral process.

The legislation is here.

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