back to article Facebook and pals to US Senate's Russia probe: Pleeease don't pass a law on political web ads

Lawyers from Facebook, Twitter, and Google did their best Tuesday to persuade congressmen not to pass new laws in the US to regulate online political ads. "Foreign interference is our elections reprehensible and goes against everything Facebook stands for," the social network's general counsel Colin Stretch told members of the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why should they be exempt?

    Those laws govern the ads that TV, newspapers and magazines can accept. I know, I know, Silicon Valley like most business thinks regulation is fine so long as it only affects the competition!

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Skwosh

      Re: Why should they be exempt?

      Yes. If we have laws regulating *paid_for* political advertising on other media then why shouldn't those laws apply here too?

      We don't need to formulate a new law dictating 'who decides truth' or introduce a new 'censorship regime'.

      We just need to apply the laws we *already* have in a context (publishing) where we already apply them.

      Does a paid-for ad count as user generated content?

      I don't think so.

      An ad appears on a platform when a customer *pays* hard cash for that ad to be remorselessly spammed at people who otherwise wouldn't see it.

      If these companies' claims about how narrowly and persuasively they can target 'messages' are true then the need to apply the existing law is surely even more important than in broadcast or print?

    3. An nonymous Cowerd

      they were *all* at it

      if one, sorry, believes the DailyWail

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5042027/Hillary-Clinton-DEFENDS-paying-Steele-dossier-Trump.html

  2. Teiwaz

    Personally

    I'd be inclined to support banning all political ads.

    It's all gotten way passed informative (even in the UK) long ago and gotten down to 'whizzo butter' levels.

    Might even out the field (especially in the US) where only the big 'corporate political parties' or the moneyed or those in bed with big business can afford to run.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Personally

      Blah first amendment yada yada... Certainly not going to happen in the USA.

      But it's probably a non-starter in the UK too. Think what it means. If I want to put up a poster in the window of my own house, expressing my support for some candidate or cause, are you willing to call the cops to make me take it down?

      How about if I want to take out an ad in my local paper, for the same purpose? You want to ban that?

      Whether the answer is "yes" or "no", the same followup question applies: how do you draw the line? How to define which ads are acceptable, and which not? Is there someone who's tasked with deciding what qualifies as "political", or "advertising" for that matter, and what's just personal expression? Does the ban apply only to certain media, or only if you spend more than $something, or... how should it work exactly?

      I know, I know - details. But these details are pretty important. Get it wrong, and you'll have created exactly the kind of oppressive police state we spend all our time fretting about.

      I think the UK's best defence against political ads of the sort that turn the USA into such a hellhole is the much-reviled BBC. (Which is one of the main reasons why it's so reviled. Rupert Murdoch(1) knows he's never going to get big bucks from political parties, as long as he has to compete with a medium that doesn't take that sort of money at all.)

      (1) Included for illustrative purposes only. Other media owners available. Some assembly required, void where prohibited etc.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Personally

        Think what it means. If I want to put up a poster in the window of my own house, expressing my support for some candidate or cause, are you willing to call the cops to make me take it down?

        You missed the point - you are still allowed to put a poster. You are not allowed to take money for putting it. There is no first amendment USA issue either as you are not prohibiting free speech. The prohibition suggested is on making money off free speech.

        In either case, any such prohibition fails to address the root cause. It was not political ads which were sponsored by the Russians. It was posts - some paid for, some "volunteer" driven which promoted socially divisive topics and increased polarization further making the angry white men of the mid-west more likely to vote. Quite clearly, the Russians came to the same conclusion as Michael Moore and Cambridge Analytica very early on and worked on it.

        No ban on political ads will succeed in countering such an election influencing strategy. In fact, nothing short of outright 100% censorship of all posts will suffice (not sure if even that will manage to do so).

      2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

        Re: Personally

        "(1) Included for illustrative purposes only. Other media owners available. Some assembly required, void where prohibited etc."

        You forgot to warn about nuts.

  3. Bronek Kozicki
    Trollface

    That was brilliant

    "I am gonna trick Facebook - I am going to use North Korea Won"

    1. hplasm
      Pint

      Re: That was brilliant

      ""Foreign interference is our elections reprehensible and goes against everything Facebook stands for," Said a spokesman after his seventh pint. Or who was channelling GWB...

      1. GX5000
        Trollface

        Re: That was brilliant

        Is our children learning?

  4. PhilipN Silver badge

    "everything Facebook stands for"

    Which is....?

    1. Teiwaz

      Re: "everything Facebook stands for"

      Nothing laudible I'm going to assume.

      Money, actually, probably souls (the 'glow' of perception/attention of it's congregation of adherents, for those of you who don't believe in souls) to feed to the fires of the nether zucker-hell.

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Re: "everything Facebook stands for"

      Simple: Mark Zuckerberg. Oh, and total world domination.

  5. Charles 9 Silver badge

    So basically, the core problem behind the problem is that, politically, most people are too stupid, and you can't fix stupid.

    IOW, we're probably going to vote ourselves out of existence eventually.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I like Al Franken's sessions

    Al Franken is by now rightly feared.

    He doesn't bullshit, he is straightforward, very, very smart and thinks on his feet. Worse, he's also capable of using seriously cutting humour to get his point across - he scares the pants of most people because he cuts through attempted BS like Microsoft through an available IT budget: with devastation.

    I would NOT like to be on the wrong side of his interrogations.

    I would like to see him be President for a while, but I like him too much to do that to him.

    1. handleoclast

      Re: I like Al Franken's sessions

      Franken was (and partially still is) a comedian. A good one (meaning he can come up with material himself as well as deliver it). Which means he spots the incongruities in situations and highlights them. Previously he did it for comedic effect, now he does it to cut through bullshit.

      Plato thought that philosophers ought to be in charge. I'm more of the opinion that it should be comedians. Franken for President and Gervaise for PM.

  7. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Facepalm

    You are shitting me

    Each acknowledged that the impact of political ads over the US presidential election – paid for by Russian agents – was far greater than they have previously admitted to.

    Ridiculous. Actually insulting.

    What "Russian Agents"? How is that impact even measured? Does it even exist? Admitted by whom?

    In other news, cranks have found that the impact of mobiles on brain tumor prevalence is far greater than anyone has previously admitted

    No, sorry, wrong headline.

    Claims of Russian interference in US election ‘dead & buried’ – George Galloway.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      FAIL

      Re: You are shitting me

      You're quoting George Galloway as a reliable news source?!?! What really? You're quoting George Galloway to win an argument and not expecting us to laugh at you? Do you mean This George Galloway?

      Pisstaking aside, George Galloway who said, "Saddam we salute your indefatigability" - and George Galloway who you've quoted via Russia Today the propoganda organ set up by the Putin regime - because he also takes money to work on behalf of the Russian government.

      He's not picky though - he also worked for the Iranian propoganda organ Press TV. The one that lost its UK license for interviewing (and showing the "confession" of) a torture victim, while still under duress, from his prison cell, without bothering to mention that minor fact. It also turned out during that investigation that they weren't a London TV station, as licenced, but run direct from Tehran - which was the reason they lost their license, rather than just getting fined.

      1. Malcolm 1

        Re: You are shitting me

        Not only is he quoting George Galloway, but he's quoting George Galloway from an article on Russia Today.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You are shitting me

      >> What "Russian Agents"?

      You and your colleagues from the bot farm you work for, as example.

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: You are shitting me

      Destroy All Monsters,

      Lest I be accused of playing the man and not the ball - which I was in that last post to be fair. Though Galloway deserves it, and is not a credible source.

      All that the piece you linked to says is that Google confirmed that RT had not broken the Youtube terms of service with any of their videos.

      It didn't mention that they'd spent $100k on promoted tweets and some amount I've forgotten with Facebook, which both of those companies have said were related to the election. Though of course they may just be covering their arses.

      But it also did not rebut (or even mention) any accusations about Russian involvement in general - and therefore is totally irrelevant to the discussion in hand and does not even remotely support the argument you are trying to make.

      0/10 - must try harder.

  8. dncnvncd

    Give 'em a pacifier

    If America loses any more freedoms it won't be from foreign propaganda. It will be from home grown propaganda. America needs censors to protect people too dumb to hit skip ad, mute or skip commercial on recording devices or in short think for themselves. America needs illegal immigrants for a labor shortage. Especially in the building trades. The 50 million increase in population due to immigrants has nothing to do with the increased need for housing, schools or public infrastructure. But, Sen. Franken bought into USSR propaganda for years. Many Americans still do. Those Americans can't accept that Americans who didn't fall for USSR propaganda in the Cold War still don't and repudiated them over the past eight years as a fundamental transformation of America was attempted. Maybe now the Silicon Valley royalty nerds will understand that under the system they are proponents of, they would just be toilers and especially for Zuckerberg, the state would choose hos neighbors.

  9. EnviableOne Silver badge

    the fix is switch to an alternative voting system, that way attack ads become a bad idea (as you want to gather second choice votes) and you get rid of the duopoly that exists both sides of the pond with Red vs Blue.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Attack ads will still continue; they'll just be more generalized to target whole parties or whole tickets (the parties themselves will just present blocs and convince their party loyal to vote the entire party down the line to try to get as many of them as possible elected).

      And with the First Amendment in place AND a historic perspective that political speech is most in need of protection, the only solution to attack ads is a better human being. Good luck with that.

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