The Honest Ads Act would require online political advertisements to adhere to the same disclaimer requirements as TV, radio, and print advertisements

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Mark Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, reintroduced bipartisan legislation to improve the transparency and accountability of online political advertising. The Honest Ads Act would require online political advertisements to adhere to the same disclosure requirements as TV, radio, and print ads, so Americans can know who is purchasing advertisements to influence our elections. The legislation would also bolster election security by closing loopholes that allow foreign individuals or entities to fund political advertisements on digital platforms.

“For our democracy to work, we need strong rules in place so the American people know who is behind the political advertising they see online,” said Klobuchar. “By ensuring online political advertisements meet the same disclosure requirements as television, radio, and print advertisements, this legislation would bring much-need transparency to our campaign finance system and help prevent foreign interference in our elections. At a time when threats to our democracy are clearer than ever and the public's confidence in government has been undermined, it is vitally important that we know who is attempting to influence our elections.

“Hardening our electoral infrastructure will require a comprehensive approach and it can’t be done with a single piece of legislation,” said Graham. “I am cosponsoring this legislation because it’s clear we have to start somewhere. I am pleased to work with Senators Klobuchar and Warner to address the gaps that currently exist, particularly with regards to social media. Online platforms have made some progress but there is more to be done. Foreign interference in U.S. elections – whether Russia in the 2016 presidential election or another rogue actor in the future – poses a direct threat to our democracy. I intend to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to bolster our defenses and defend the integrity of our electoral system.”

"As Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I am keenly aware of the threats facing our democracy. In 2016 and again in 2020, we saw our adversaries launching disinformation campaigns exploiting social media in an attempt to influence our elections and advance their own interests,” said Warner. “In order to safeguard our elections, the United States needs to defend against these coordinated efforts to undermine our democracy. This starts with increased transparency from the online platforms. The Honest Ads Act requires large digital platforms to meet the same disclosure standards as broadcast, cable, and satellite ads, preventing foreign actors from manipulating the American public through the use of inauthentic and divisive paid ads online.”

The Honest Ads Act would:

  • Amend the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act’s definition of public communication and electioneering communication to include paid internet and digital advertisements;

  • Extend the current requirements for public access to broadcasting, cable, and satellite records of political ad sales to digital platforms and third party advertising vendors with targeted exemptions for news organizations; 

  • Require online platforms to make all reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate; and 

  • Require all qualifying large online platforms to accompany political ads with disclaimers identifying the purchasers of the ads; and maintain a public file of the ads and the purchasers.

The Honest Ads Act is endorsed by the Campaign Legal Center, the Alliance for Securing Democracy, the Brennan Center for Justice, Issue One, End Citizens United, and the German Marshall Fund’s Digital Innovation Democracy Initiative