The Honest Ads Act would require social media and internet companies who have more than a set number of users (a figure in the tens of millions) to make public detailed information about any political advertiser who spent just a few thousand dollars on their platforms, according to two people briefed on the bill.
"In the wake of Russian Federation on the attack in the 2016 election, it is more important than ever to strengthen our defenses against foreign interference in our elections", McCain wrote in a statement that was read by Klobuchar during a Thursday press conference.
"These companies rely on the trust of all of us who use the platforms", said Senator Warner. Amy Klobuchar and Mark Warner, the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee - which is investigating Russian interference - would apply the same rules to online ads as those on television and radio advertising.
"I've been fighting for free and open and full disclosure for the past 25 years", McCain said Wednesday. Warner is the top Democrat on the Senate's panel.
Although Twitter and Google were apparently key to spreading fake news a year ago, much of the information war took place on Facebook, where hundreds of pages dedicated to USA election issues were reportedly controlled by Russian trolls. The House Intelligence Committee has said it plans on publicly releasing the ads. The bipartisan bill will, should it pass, require all digital platforms to federally disclose who buys political ads on each platform's website or app, the goal being to avoid further foreign meddling in USA elections and fueling the flames around issues like racial tensions.
Dubbed the Honest Ads Act, the proposed legislation aims to make online platforms disclose paid political ads.
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The $500 threshold is much lower than what was initially considered when the senators were drafting the bill.
Warner and Klobuchar said that 85 percent of paid online political ads go through Facebook and Google. "Well, now we're at $1.4 billion", she said. A Google spokeswoman said on Thursday there was no update from the company.
The Senate and House intelligence committees are two of the main congressional panels probing allegations that Russian Federation sought to interfere in the USA election to boost Republican President Donald Trump's chances of winning, and possible collusion between Trump associates and Russian Federation.
"I have a hard time understanding how you do legislation on social media platforms before you have them in for a hearing", Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, a Republican, told CNN on Thursday. "The social media companies were frankly late to the game in acknowledging this problem, but I think they're moving in the right direction".
Neither CEO Mark Zuckerberg nor COO Sheryl Sandberg, who met privately with lawmakers last week, will appear at the public hearings, as previously reported by CNBC.
"We stand with lawmakers in their effort to achieve transparency in political advertising", Erin Egan, Facebook's vice president for USA public policy, said in a statement. "We have already announced the steps Facebook will take on our own and we look forward to continuing the conversation with lawmakers as we work toward a legislative solution", said Erin Egan, Facebook VP for US Public Policy in a statement to CNET.