Heinrich, Sarbanes Lead Democratic Coalition Calling On FEC To Help Prevent Foreign Governments From Using Social Media Ads To Influence U.S. Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and U.S. Representatives John Sarbanes (D-Md.) and John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) have led a coalition of Democratic House and Senate members in sending a letter to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) urging the agency to consider new rules that would prevent foreign nationals from using online advertising platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, to influence U.S. elections.
Following the revelation that Russia purchased Facebook advertisements during the 2016 election to attempt to influence American voters, there has been increasing concern about the lack of transparency in political ads in online advertising platforms.
In the letter, Senator Heinrich, Rep. Sarbanes, and 18 of their colleagues, expressed their concern that no guidelines exist for advertising platforms to better prevent foreign nationals from illicitly spending in future U.S. elections.
“Foreign political activity is a direct assault on federal election law and the integrity of our elections. The Federal Election Campaign Act bars foreign nationals, companies, or governments from spending, either directly or indirectly, in U.S. elections,” wrote the members. “Social media platforms offer the ability to target millions of users based upon a wealth of highly-detailed information. As we have seen, the low cost of reaching these users equips hostile foreign actors with a powerful new tool for disruption of our democratic process. Therefore, it is incumbent that the Commission take immediate action to preserve the integrity of our election law and our elections.”
“We encourage the Federal Election Commission to take immediate steps to understand the threats posed to our democratic process by foreign influenced internet and social media advertisement, and to promulgate new guidance on how advertisement platforms can better prevent foreign nationals from illicitly spending in future U.S. elections,” continued the members.
The letter was also signed by U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Cory Booker (D-N.J.),Robert Menendez (D-N.J.),Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and U.S. Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), and Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.).
A copy of the letter is available here and below.