New law requires full disclosure for political ads on social media

Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office

New York has become the first state in the nation to implement comprehensive regulations for political advertisements on social media.

The New York State Democracy Protection Act holds New York to the same standards for transparency in political advertising seen in traditional media and at the national level.

The federal government requires disclosure of identity on all political ads, including print, radio and television. Before the Democracy Protection Act, New York state only required disclosure on television ads.

The act amends the definition of “political communication” to cover paid online ads that target more than 50 people. On April 18 Cuomo signed the Act into law.

Under the new law, anyone purchasing digital advertisements needs to register as an independent expenditure committee, much like political ads on television. If a committee spends in excess of $5,000 within 30 days of a general, primary or special election they would need to report it within 24 hours.

Foreign entities will be barred from influencing New York politics by preventing them from forming an independent expenditure committee, preventing them from purchasing digital advertisements for New York politics.

In October 2017 facebook estimated that 126 million Americans were influenced by Russian-bought advertisements on the platform during the 2016 presidential election.

Independent political ads purchased in the state will now need to clearly indicate who paid for the ad, as well as a disclaimer that the ad was not authorized by a candidate. Much like we already see on televised political ads, digital ads will require a “Paid for by,” disclaimer.

The state Board of Elections will create an online database of political ads which will be accessible for the public, the press and politicians. By retaining the records of these communications they remain accessible even if deleted, increasing accountability for entities that attempt to sidestep the new regulations.

Bills (S.6896-a/A.8816), introduced in October 2017 by Senator Todd Kaminsky, D- Rockville Centre, and Assemblyman James Skoufis, D-Woodbury, were the first pieces of legislation to deal with this issue. Both legislators were targeted by false and misleading Facebook ads.

“All we’re asking is people who put out these ads to tell us who you are,” Skoufis said during a February press conference supporting the bills.

Kaminsky is supportive of the Democracy Protection Act, and applauds Cuomo for signing the bill.

“Today, New York became a leader in protecting voters from misinformation as they make important decisions about the future of their government,” Kaminsky said. “All New Yorkers should thank Governor Cuomo for his commitment to honest elections. I am proud to have sponsored this bill in the Senate and am thrilled to see its implementation.”

The New York State Democracy Protection Act took effect immediately and will apply to political ads made on or after June 18, 2018.