Washington Examiner: Fake Russian Facebook accounts spark major FEC debate

Melissa Quinn
Oct 2, 2017
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Facebook's revelations last month that it sold more than $100,000 worth of ads to fake accounts tied to a Russian company could usher in a change in how the Federal Election Commission governs political advertising online.

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But Brendan Fischer, director of federal and FEC reform at the Campaign Legal Center, said the U.S. was unprepared for a broad-based foreign influence effort such as the one Russia waged during the 2016 election.

"In modern times, we haven't really seen an extensive foreign influence effort, and the degradation of our campaign finance laws over the last several years and the rise of new forms of political campaigning online have helped create this perfect storm for Russia or other foreign actors to influence our democracy," he told the Washington Examiner. "Adding to that mix the desire by Facebook and other tech companies to escape any form of regulation and the willingness of both parties to allow that, to allow Facebook and other tech companies free rein, has helped contribute to this atmosphere."

Fischer said he hopes as the FEC begins discussing disclosure rules once again, the commission considers Facebook's change in its approach to disclaimers.

But he said future efforts to combat foreign interference in U.S. elections can't rest solely on the regulatory agencies or the private sector, but rather needs to be a joint effort.

"The FEC, there's limits to what it can do because Congress needs to update its statutes with regard to the Internet age and what we've seen happen in the 2016 election and efforts with foreign interference," he said. "Any legislative or regulatory efforts should include input from the private sector. Facebook and other tech companies have built very successful businesses, and we don't want to interfere with that, but I'm certain Facebook and other tech companies have productive ideas for how they can combat foreign interference."

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