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Monday, May 16, 2011

Facebook Fights Disclosure of Political Ad Funders

Posted By and on Mon, May 16, 2011 at 4:42 PM

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook, that oxygenlike Internet omnipresence you were probably fooling around on a few minutes before reading this post, doesn't want you to know who's paying for the political ads displayed on its pages.

That's the upshot of a letter, obtained and published by Talking Points Memo, which the company's lawyers sent late last month to the Federal Election Commission. Their argument: Facebook ads are so small that it's an unfair waste of space to have to carry funding disclosures -- "This ad paid for by Californians Against Plastic," etc. -- that typically must accompany advertising space purchased by political action committees.

Facebook's attorneys are arguing that ads on the site should be considered for regulatory purposes in the same media category as small campaign tchotchkes, which don't have to reveal who paid for them.

"The standard Facebook ad, which appears as 2.97 square inches on a typical laptop, is smaller than both the standard campaign button (3.98 square inches) and the standard campaign bumper sticker, neither of which includes a disclaimer," the letter states. FB ads are limited to a 25-character title and 135 characters of body text.

The upshot of this could be significant, since Facebook has arguably come to play a big role in domestic politics -- not to mention more rough-and-tumble social upheaval abroad. Whatever the results, it's safe to say that Facebook CEO and less-than-enthusiastic voter Mark Zuckerberg probably won't be paying much attention to the political ads on his website, whether they carry disclaimers or not.

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Peter Jamison


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