Right now, the recently proposed Honest Ads Act is the talk of the town. The goal of the bill is to improve the clarity and transparency of digital political advertising. While the current thought process behind the motion may seem like a good idea, many industry experts are left arguing the pros and cons.
Here’s what our very own industry expert, Phil V, had to say about the Honest Ads Act in a recent article from The Drum:
The pros are – it will put political campaigns advertised through digital platforms on par with other mediums like TV, radio, print, etc. and make that process more transparent. That said, it will overreach. I don’t have to disclose what audiences I’m targeting for TV ads, so why do I have to for digital? This undermines my ability to be strategic, which seems a bit unfair in the grand scheme.
There’s lots of cons.
First, it doesn’t prevent what the Russians did, which was to advertise fake news. This bill only focuses on building in transparency measures for ads supporting a specific candidate, which companies like Push are already required to disclose through the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Because the Russians only advertised fake news, the bill is pointless in that regard.
Second, the level of transparency will basically give the government, and anyone willing to dig through the ads Facebook would have to save as part of the bill, access into detailed campaign strategy information — who a campaign targeted, when, with which content, and the costs associated, etc. So, from a campaigning perspective, it’s a playbook for the other guys to work from.
Third, it says nothing of organic content on social, which is bizarre because the bill itself lists some interesting stats about how Twitter was used to target swing states using fake news. Even though a lot of digital experts say organic is dead, we all know that every once in awhile a piece of content goes viral. If all you’re doing is pumping out fake news all day, the odds of something hitting are far better than a legitimate campaign which must follow certain standards when publishing content.
In summary – yes, Facebook is still kind of the lawless “Wild West” of political advertising – but the Honest Ad Act isn’t the solution to our problems. Likewise, it doesn’t help that the Senator’s drafting these measures are on the wrong side of the digital divide and don’t understand how the damn thing works. As the kids say on Facebook… it’s complicated.