House balks at requiring disclosure of social media political ad sponsors

A Senate-passed bill that would require the disclosure of who paid for political ads on social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook is likely dead for the year after failing to get enough votes in the House on Monday, reports the Associated Press.

The bill (SB1635), sponsored by Nashville Democrats, Sen. Jeff Yarbro and Rep. Jason Powell, passed the Senate in March by the bare minimum 17 votes needed with 8 members opposed and the rest not voting. On the House floor, it got just 43 of the 50 votes needed with 33 opposed and the rest not voting.

Powell said the bill basically puts the same requirements for disclosure of who paid for promoting or opposing a political candidate on social media that now apply to print and broadcast ads, which is “implied” under current law but not clear.

No one spoke against the bill in floor debate, but House Majority Leader Glenn Casada questioned Powell at some length.

The bill would have required the disclosure on the ad itself, at another linked site or on the profile page of the social media platform.

The failure of the bill in Tennessee comes a week after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced a two-day grilling by members of Congress about a range of controversies, including how Russians used the platform to meddle in the U.S. presidential election.

Yarbro has pointed to a federal indictment charging 13 Russians with running a social media campaign engineered in part to help get Donald Trump elected president. The indictment mentions a Twitter account made to resemble the Tennessee Republican Party that attracted more than 100,000 followers. The real Tennessee Republican Party had long criticized the account and repeatedly asked Twitter to take it down.

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