Golden Introduces New Legislation to Improve Transparency, Fight Foreign Influence in Online Political Ads

February 16, 2021
Press Release
Political ad spending is increasingly moving online, where it is difficult to trace and verify

WASHINGTON — Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02) introduced two bills this week to slow the flood of political money moving to social media advertising, fight the spread of disinformation, and help block foreign influence in American elections.  

The 2020 election saw an explosion of digital advertising, rising to $1.6 billion by one estimate. Due to loopholes in federal law, online platforms are especially vulnerable targets for dark money and illegal foreign spending. Representatives of Facebook told congressional investigators that the company had discovered it sold $100,000 in ads to a shadowy Russian company with a history of pushing propaganda. According to the Wesleyan Media Project, the 15 largest dark money groups spent $26 million on Facebook and Google ads in the 2020 election cycle. 

“Dark money special interest groups and even foreign actors have fully embraced social media and online advertising to influence our elections and spread disinformation,” said Congressman Golden. “Our laws need to keep up. The bills I’m introducing today would provide an incentive for social media companies to take steps to verify that ad-buyers are based in our country and make sure that paid political posts are identified as an ad any time they appear on your screen. These are good steps to fight dark money in politics in the digital age, help stem the spread of disinformation online, and shield our elections from foreign influence.” 

Golden’s Block Foreign-Funded Political Ads Act would protect elections from foreign political interference and disinformation campaigns by pushing online ad sellers like Facebook to use credit card data to verify that political ads on their platforms are purchased from a U.S. address. 

Golden’s Consistent Labeling for Political Ads Act would increase transparency in online political advertising by requiring social media companies to make ad labels ‘sticky.’ Many social media platforms allow groups to purchase ads that look like other posts. Those paid posts are then labeled “sponsored” or “promoted” to help users know that it is a paid advertisement. However, those labels often disappear when the paid post is shared by a different user. Golden’s bill would require the ad labels to stick with paid posts even after the posts are shared by another user. 

This week’s legislation continues Golden’s anti-corruption and campaign finance reform efforts. Last summer, Golden introduced his Plan to Fix a Broken Washington, a slate of policies to fight corruption in American government and dark money in our elections. He has consistently supported efforts to block congressional pay raises and prevent foreign interference in American elections, and helped to pass the For the People Act of 2019 through the House in the previous Congress.

You can read the text of Golden’s provisions here and here.