If you plan to perform digital online advertising this election season, be prepared for new changes in transparency and disclosure.

Digital advertising is growth industry. According to the Campaign Legal Center, $1.4 billion dollars were spent on digital ads in 2016, up from just $159.8 million in 2012. While political ads on television require a ‘paid for’ disclaimer, this rule does not currently apply to online ads.

Until now, web advertising in the political realm has been pretty much a free-for-all. That is starting to change as influence of online advertising grows. With recent problems, the face of political digital advertising may need a complete overhaul.

Facebook cracks down

Following the 3,000 Russia-linked political ads that appeared during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Facebook hopes to curb ad bots and trolls going forward.

Political advertisers will need to provide verification before they can buy and run ads on Facebook. They will need a Page, and a View Ads section within the Pages so users can see what advertising has been purchased. Organizations will have to identify the organization they represent and their location. “Paid for by” information will also be required in the ad itself. Facebook users who click on a disclosure will be able to advertiser information and an explanation of why they saw that particular ad.
 
The new policies are being tested in Canada. They should be implemented in the United States sometime before the 2018 mid-term elections.

Digital transparency goes local

in the absence of Federal action, states and localities have made moves to increase advertising transparency. Both Seattle and Washington state’s campaign finance laws now require disclosure of those providing political ads and the amount of money paid for them.

Laws like these are the start of states and cities’ attempts to crack down on the secrecy surrounding online political ads.

What does this mean for local campaigns?

Be prepared to provide more organization information with your digital advertising. This includes Facebook ads or Pay Per Click advertising. Keep careful records of your expenditures, the platforms where those ads run, and even the specific ads that you run (copy and creatives). You may need this information at some point in the future.
 
On Facebook, we recommend verifying your campaign page(s). This helps your page appear in search results. It can also provide the basic advertising disclosure requirements.

Other legislative requirements may be on the way. On a Federal level, the Honest Ads Act proposes that online advertising be regulated similarly to print, radio and television. This would require more transparency from Facebook, Twitter and Google about who is paying for political advertisements on their platforms.

Whether new laws pass or not, you can count on social media platforms requiring more information from political advertisers in 2018 and beyond.

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