Skip down to main content

Should Facebook Ads Be Regulated Like TV Commercials?

Published on
14 Sep 2017
Written by
Philip Howard

I spoke to the Atlantic for this story about regulating political advertising on Facebook.

Experts seem to agree on two principles with respect to free speech and tech company arbitration. First, social-media companies, like other private publishers and unlike the government, are not bound by the First Amendment—meaning that they have discretion over what kind of speech is allowed on their platforms. And second, it is dangerous for the government to play a role in censoring content and advertisements on social media—beyond requiring companies to ban illegal activity from their platforms.Further, many experts believe that mandating the disclosure of political-advertisement sources on Facebook, like the requirement for television or radio to identify ad sponsors on air, could help solve the problem. “Even if nothing else is done, it should be possible to require that political advertisers on Facebook embed the financing information in the ad, and it should be possible for Facebook to archive a copy of the ad with state elections officials or the FEC,” says Philip Howard, the director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute.

Senators Mark Warner and Martin Heinrich have suggested that social-media ads should be regulated like TV ads. And Warner, who vice-chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, is calling for Facebook and Twitter to testify about Russian election meddling, as he sees the current landscape of social media and political campaigns as “the Wild West.”

Related Topics