Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 57 seconds

The digital marketing industry is wrestling with creating new policies intended to maintain the integrity of content and the upcoming midterm elections. This is happening, of course, against the backdrop of special counsel Robert Mueller's continuing investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential race.

At first blush, the problem may not appear very relevant to brands, but the issue has far reaching consequences. The integrity of digital advertising is crucial for ensuring that the electorate has a fair shot at selecting leaders, but it is also essential for ensuring that the general public doesn’t become distrustful of online content, including content that brands use to promote their products.

With a large number of contested seats in the Senate and House up for grabs and Democrats hungry for winning majorities in both chambers, campaign funding for the upcoming elections is expected to exceed the record $3.8 billion spent on the 2014 midterm, reports MarketWatch.

In the meantime, numerous efforts are underway to prevent foreign entities from repeating their nefarious activities that occurred in 2016. In a press release, Common Cause maintains that the Internet Research Agency, which is a “troll farm” in St. Petersburg, Russia, spent more than $1.25 million per month in the fall of 2016 to influence the presidential election by distributing propaganda on the internet.

The organization says more than 100,000 individuals have written letters to the Federal Election Commission urging the regulator to require that all online political ads specify who has paid for the content. The requirement would be comparable to regulations for print, radio, and television advertisements.

The organization is also working with Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Warner (D-VA), and John McCain (R-AZ) to support passage of the Honest Ads Act, which would require disclosures regarding the sponsors of political ads.

At the same time, Google and social media platforms are trying to get in front of the issue. In a blog, Google says it now requires individuals that want to purchase political ads to confirm that they are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, which is a legal requirement.

Ads will also have disclosures regarding who is paying for the content. Google also says it will provide a transparency report that will list who has been purchasing political ads.

Twitter is also taking similar actions, reports AdAge. Organizations running political ads now have to provide their FEC identification, and individuals not registered with the FEC have to submit a notarized form. Twitter says it will not let foreign nationals run political advertisements. Advertisements will also have to disclose who is bankrolling the content.

Facebook, for its part, says page admins must verify their identification, reports Campaign & Elections. It will also maintain an archive of political advertisements that run on the platform. Facebook’s requirements have drawn criticism from Republican strategist Eric Wilson, who is pessimistic regarding Facebook’s ability to police itself. The policies, he says, are a public relations stunt and he believes Facebook needs to enact more stringent rules.

In the future, political advertisements are likely to have a political advertising icon based on guidelines that have been created by the Digital Advertising Alliance, which consists of multiple advertising organizations, reports MarketingLand.

The icon is a purple triangle with the letter “I” inside it. The icon suggestion is part of a 12-page document called “Application of the Self-Regulatory Principles of Transparency & Accountability to Political Advertising.” Advertisements should also list who is paying for the content and provide a phone number of the organization or individual that is paying to run the promotional materials.

Last modified on Saturday, 09 June 2018
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