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tv   Political Advertisement Hearing  CSPAN  October 28, 2017 10:02am-11:54am EDT

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the true from the false, and that is an overwhelming job now, a bigger responsibility than we have ever had because we are dealing with so much more information. we now have access to more information than any people in the history of the world. we are running a little short on curators right now. we are getting so much information that we really cannot process it. >> for more of this weekend's .chedule, go to >> next, a hearing on the regulation of political advertising on social media. witnesses discussed how russia purchased facebook ads doing the 2016 election, and recently, twitter announced it will begin labeling political ads on its platform and require campaigns to disclose who bought the as and the amount spent.
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>> subcommittee on information technology will come to order. good afternoon. today's hearing is part of a series of hearings the ig subcommittee has helped to analyze existing laws and regulations that may have become obsolete or need updating to reflect technological advances. we have held hearings on health i.t. technology, drones, autonomous vehicles, and many other issues. today, we turn our attention to laws and regulations governing political advertisements. the federal election commission oversees civil campaign finance disclaimerforces requirements related to federal offices. in addition, the fcc forces onitional disclosure broadcast, satellite, and radio ads. increasedproposed disclaimers for as placed on
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platforms. the interplay between these regulatory agencies and how they each apply the law is something the oversight committee is uniquely situated to examine, and i hope we can do that today. in many ways, this hearing is another example of the i.t.'s subcommittee -- the i.t. subcommittee's efforts. there is an important that cannot be understated. our adversaries have sought to destroy what our forefathers fought for. our adversaries have always sought to use our natures unique qualities to undermine democracy, but now the tools have changed. russia has attended to influence our democratic process, utilizing, among other tools, political advertisements on major american social media platforms. for every technological advancement, our nation's regulatory foster has evolved to meet the changing needs of the day. i hope to explore questions
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related to the reforms of our nation's political advertisement laws and regulations. as always, i'm honored to be exploring these issues in a bipartisan fashion with my rent and ranking member, the .onorable robin kelly always good to be here with you. i thank my colleagues and witnesses and my fellow citizens who have joined today or who are watching online for participating today. now it is my honor to recognize the ranking member on the subcommittee for information technology. her opening statement. >> thank you for holding this importan >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for holding this important hearing. one month after facebook revealed russia spent $3000 to find 3000 ads. those reached 10 million americans. these are just the numbers we know of. there are likely many more that were purchased directly or indirectly by the russian
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government. u.s. campaign finance law prohibits the money but allows it to purchase issue ads. all must carry a disclaimer which is both disclosed to the buyer but this does not extend to the digital ads like those that run on facebook. the russian government exploited these loopholes in the 2016 election's russians were able to take advantage of the antiquated campaign finance ruleintegratede misinformation campaign on facebook, twitter and google. they targeted their ad sometimes posing as community activists with the intention of turning americans against americans. they thought that this was a congressional district in the state fake news. the last time the federal election commission updated these regulations was april, 2006. more than ten years ago. that was before the iphone had been introduced into twitter was still in development and facebook was only for college
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students. in fact 35 of the members were not yet in congress myself or the chairman included. much has changed in that time. a presidential candidate use twitter to wage a presidential campaign and it is time we recognized in today's world television and radio are not the only media carrying political ads. i'm confident we can prevent meddling by russia and other states by protecting the first amendment rights of americans. i was encouraged to see they reopened 2011 comments period on social media, political exercising after these revelations. however, i am still concerned about the problem within that have led to the years of gridlock and inaction. we cannot continue waiting for action from the ftc. our adversaries have shown they can act quickly and exploit our inability to enforce the law. according to the recent poll,
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60% of americans want regulation on social media advertising and an astonishing 78% of americans want payment disclosure for political advertisements. i couldn't agree more. it's clear that americans want transparency and more accountability for social media, political advertising. congress and the intelligence community needs to fully investigate what happened in 2016. i commend the chairman for his leadership and willingness to hold today's hearing. congress must work harder to ensure the integrity. recently senators warner, klobuchar and mccain and representatives introduced the bipartisan aid. this would increase transparency in online political advertising by requiring online advertising platforms to disclose copies of the ads to targeted audiences. this bill is a great start thank you to the witnesses for being here today i look forward to
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hearing your thoughts and ideas on how we can protect our democracy. thank you mr. chairman i would also ask unanimous consent that the representatives be allowed to join our subcommittee today and participate in the hearing. >> so ordered. >> thank you ranking member kelly and now we will introduce witnesses. first we have the legal director of the center for competitive politics. mr. david to chief executive che officer of news media alliance, jack goodman order of the law offices, randall rothenberg president and chief executive officer and the advertising bureau and senior counsel for the brennan center for justice democracy program at the new york university school of law. welcome to you all and pursuing all witnesses will be sworn in before you testify so please
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rise and raise your right hand. do you solemnly swear or affirm the testimony you are about to get is the truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? let the record reflect all witnesses answered in the affirmative. in order to allow time for the discussion, please limit your opening testimony to five minutes and your entire statement will be made part of the record, and i appreciate those statements. it was helpful and better understanding these issues for those that are looking for any great outline of these questions we will be debating here and i would suggest you go to the oversight website to review the statements. as a reminder, the clock in front of your shows your time remaining. a delightful turn yellow when you have 30 seconds left and read when your time is up.
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you are up first and you are recognized for five minutes. >> members of the subcommittee, thank you for the invitation to appear before you today. the internet has fundamentally transformed the way in which he communicate with one another. it is on our desks next to our alarm clocks and today a large portion walk around every day carrying devices that can instantly connect them with anyone in the world from almost anywhere. in fact in 2014 supreme court survey data indicating 12% of americans use their cell phones in the shower. internet revolution allowed americans to absorb and produce and distribute content without third-party intermediaries. they no longer need to see if an editor accepted the letter were
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at the expense and burden of buying political ads. as the judge observed when he struck down the finance law it must be remembered that the internet is the new soap box and town square. in a way that makes the 1980s revolution publishing appeared almost claimed the internet has made publishers, distributors and speakers. every american has the opportunity and one suspects those offers would approve. accordingly the blossoming of the association is delegates and great caution must be taken when burdening the association for the american speakers. that does not mean as i explain in my written testimony about online speeches are without rules, but it does mean the
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current regulatory environment strikes a balance in favor of a flourishing civil society. further efforts to license or regulate the placement of the issue advertisements, particularly those that do not advocate for any electoral outcome will drive out the least sophisticated and they will inevitably affect the corporations to ensure compliance but rather a grassroots activists passionate about the issues today. efforts to shift onto the online platforms will simply require the companies to pass on the cost to the same budget consumers and it will create incentives to limit the grassroots speakers in favor of the entities that conduct the speeches and advanced. the result will be less free, less open and less available to ordinary americans.
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there's also challenges to take one example they are a valid and vital concern that they cannot justify regulations whose burdens will fall overwhelmingly on americans. that determines if a familiar problem. it has accomplished through the means of diplomacy, counterintelligence and military readiness. campaign finance law and particularly the possibility of a fine in the civil enforcement authority has relatively little to the mix. additional rules will further restrict access to the internet by average americans in small groups. the first amendment stands against those efforts. it is against those of the moment and remind her that the dedication to liberty and unfettered public debate is a strength and not a weakness. nor does the technological advancements changed the fundamental guarantees the
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rights to frerightto free speecd association are not circumscribed merely becomes to become easier for the americans to exercise. as always than when dealing with political speech the supreme court has recognized to be at the center of our guiding principle must be restrained. thank you and i look forward to the subcommittee questions. >> you are now recognized for your opening remarks. >> thank you for asking me to participate in today's hearing. i represent the news media alliance a nonprofit association representing 2,000 publishers across the united states. our members include some of the largest global news organizations as well as local newspapers, focusing on the issues that impact their daily lives of citizens in every state and congressional district. members share a common mission
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to inform society in an accurate and responsible manner. the organizations long made substantial investments in high-quality journalism to achieve that mission. our journalists and publishers are also held to high standards as detailed in the society of sf news editors and principles and professional journalists code of ethics. not only are we potentially liable for publishing something false but our brands are built on trust with our readers and because of this, the commitment to the reporting has also informed our approach to advertising. publishers have long played an important role in ensuring the integrity of the advertisements that appear next to their content and when it comes to political advertisements, the responsibility for complying with the commission rules clearly falls on the advertiser. nonetheless, news publishers have taken a role to ensure proper disclosures are made and that all ads placed reflect the
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honesty and integrity of the foundation of the brand. as technology has evolved, evo , publishers carried forward the responsibility to provide accurate content and the internal controls to go with it to digital product. these efforts are now much were difficult because of the growth of online platforms like google and facebook that act as intermediaries in the distribution of news, content and advertising. publishers previously worked to ensure the integrity those of theiof theircontent and advertit appeared next to it, but now we have less control over advertising this week because of the ads in the platforms. these challenges are largely caused by the massive growth and inability to control the ecosystem that was built with a specific intention of not exercising the responsibility over the integrity of content or the advertising that sustains the foundation. this is exacerbated to the by
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the online news information. they are the top sources of traffic for online news publishers and they also collect most of the revenue with google and facebook receiving approximately 71% of all digital advertising dollars in the united states last year which includes political advertising. the publishers worked tirelessly to respond to the rapidly changing business models and the members now represents some of the most innovative and engaging digital publishers in existence and we've created these new businesses without compromising the integrity of the journalism. it's time google and facebook and other platforms do their part as well and while they profited greatly from the market power, they have yet to accept the responsibility that comes with that position. but it comes to political advertising congress also needs to make the same adjustments.
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on desktops, print, mobile devices if congress sees fit on certain speech those who shouldn't be defined by the delivery platform and as a corollary they should revisit the need for the current platform specific requirements to see if they appropriately applied to the converged digital world. if congress continues to legislate by platform, then technology will simply continue to outpace the rules. the alliance believes that the rules should be updated to require disclosures within an internet advertisement to identify the sponsor, google and facebook should also update their models and be algorithms that accelerate the distribution of the so-called fake news and viral messaging so that the reputable content is elevated in the search and news feed.
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i believe that these changes would lead to a healthier industry, better informed citizenry and more united country. thank you very much for your time. >> mr. goodman and yo kunar recd for five minutes. >> enqueue ranking member kelly and members of the subcommittee. i am pleased to present testimony on political advertising though i have decades of experience working with broadcast stations from the political advertising i do not appear today on behalf of any president or former client and these views are entirely my own. broadcasters have been considered america's most front source of news, far more than any other meme however broadcast advertising involving politics is subject to detailed regulations in effect at stations must accept, the information about sponsors they must obtain and disclose to the public and the price they charge for political ads. in my experience, stations take
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the compliance efforts very seriously. the political broadcasting staff is exceptionally helpful that even experienced broadcasters and the council frequently encounter questions to which no clear answer exists. disclaimer as i will refer to it is information that must be included about the sponsor these are often referred to as sponsor requirements, they are the sponsors of political advertising to reveal who they are and who determines the policies. both the ftc and the fcc have rules governing aspects of both disclosure and disclaimer. both agencies have sought to avoid a conflict in regulations and very importantly, both believe that the broadcasters and their employees shouldn't be required to serve as unpaid agents or unofficial private in estimators. the fcc disclaimer rules for all political advertising is it must
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include a statement saying either paid for or sponsored by whoever is actually writing the check and paying for it. the rules limit the type of ad stations can so. short messages cannot be used because the the disclaimer willt fit, thus inflexible disclaimer rules can prevent the use of some formats for political speech. turning to disclosure, broadcasters and cable systems must maintain public inspection titles including the political file. television station files are now online and all stations will have their files online by next march. for the candidates in the station required to disclose the candidate, the requested schedule and cost of the ad. disclosure requirements for the long candidate ads that include both independent expenditures relating to the elections are more complex.
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the rules require detailed disclosure for any ad communicates a political matter of national importance and explains that these include references to the legal equal the five candidate and election for federal office or national legislative issue of public importance and its definition is to say the least unclear. for example there's the reference to the legal equal to five candidate intended to encompass issue ads about state and local races, determining what is a national legislative issue can also be challenging if congress is considering a gun control bill, separate gun measure were introduced in the state legislature would be and be subject to a expanded disclosure, the requirements disclose the sponsors officers and issues are also difficult to enforce. some ad agencies refuse to provide requested information. stations in frequently receive
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orders for ads that did not identify any individual or even if the station insists only one name. stations face similar problems getting accurate information about the issues. the rule is itself ambiguous for example, if there are issues ads next year opposing senator cain's reelection in november, the election of senator cain is that an adequate description of the issue and what is an avid discusses more than one issue, does each one need to be disclosed? another problem in advance and other times it isn't to decide which specific issue to address until just before it runs. because the problems come even the most conscientious stations have great difficulty obtaining the information and opposing to be in the political file. in conclusion experience with the political broadcasting wearables as instructe instructe new ruleany newrules applicables or other media need to be flexible to be adapted to the
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new varying speech formats and if the disclosure requirements are created, the responsibility for the collection should be placed on the media but instead on a government agency with authority to interpret the rules, investing resources and the power to impose the sanctions for noncompliance. thank you very much. >> thank you mr. goodman. you are now recognized for five minutes. >> members of the committee, thank you for the honor to testify today. i would like to get straight to the point. throughout my eve o of an year tenure the active bureau has always stood for greater transparency and disclosure in the digital advertising supply chain. regardless whether they are political or commercial because we believe transparency and disclosure are necessary for the consumer safety so we strongly support efforts by the congress and federal election commission to clarify, reconcile and strengthened the disclosures
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required in the party's candidates and campaigns. but, as a representative of the economy's fastest growing sector, i also believe that our industry itself can go even further to implement supply chain protections that would fortify the trustworthiness of the digital advertising and the media and political advertising and commercial advertising alike. there's a proven track record of taking and implementing responsibility across the 650 plus member companies together with multiple partners associations, we've created some of the media industries strongest sulfur to three mechanisms. programs lauded by the white house, commerce department and federal trade commission. for the digital advertising alliances program we've provided consumers more control over the personal data into digital advertising environments through the trustworthy accountability groups anti-fraud registry and auditing program we work closely
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with u.s. and overseas law enforcement to root out criminal activity from add supported internet. .. >> the federal election campaign act has mandated disclaimers on all political advertising that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a candidate. but much of the fake news and fake ads at the center of the current storm did not engage in such overt candidate support. there were not a bunch of secretive russian moles purchasing vote for trump or
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hillary for president internet banner ads. rather, there were sophisticated posts about social and political issues, some of which were made more widely available because the operators paid to amplify them in people's social media feeds. some of the scandalous messaging was not even placed for payment. both social influence advertising and unpaid advocacy fall outside the scope of federal campaign disclosure rules. americans have first amendment rights to shout on street corners, put signs on their lawns and post on social media without registering as political committees or reporting how much they spend on megaphones or smartphones. there is one more complex challenge is extending current disclosure rules to the internet. the traditional regulations from the fec and the sec require disclosures by the media running the ads for they are receiving the insertion orders and payment for those ads. no programming runs that hasn't
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been vetted by those companies. in the digital world, every page is cobbled together from multiple sources and assembled on the fly inside a user's internet browser. sponsored links and social commentary come together from scores of computers. scores of other suppliers may be contributing measurement, ad verification and auction pricing services. only a portion of the advertising is sold directly by publishers. the greater portion is sold and distributed by third party technology companies which do their work via automated systems, programmatically in the industry parlance. legislative proposals that would require web sites to field expensive disclosure mechanisms create burdens on struggling media organizations, yet would barely capture the illicit political communication which is placed programmatically. this is why we would like the congress' support for strengthening the
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self-regulatory mechanisms we already have built by which digital media companies police their supply chains for bad actors and provide greater transparency into who is putting what on their sites. we can monitor the financing chain whether the paid support takes the form of conventional advertising or whether it shows up in less familiar formats. thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. >> thank you, mr. rothenberg. you're now recognized for your opening statement of five minnesotas. >> thank you. good afternoon -- five minutes. >> i thank the subcommittee for holding this hearing. we appreciate the opportunity to share with you our recommendations concerning federal political advertisement laws and regulations, particularly as they relate to the ability of foreign powers to interfere in american elections. the brennan center is focuses on democracy and justice and has studied campaign finance for 20 years working to develop and defend constitutionally sound
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policies. there are gaping holes in our regulation of paid political ads. in contrast to radio and television, much of the election spending on the internet is untouched by key regulations. these include the requirement to report spending on mass media ads that mention candidates in a period before an election, the ban on foreign nationals buying such ads and the requirement that broadcasters retain public files of political ads. it's time for this to change. the internet is only going to grow in its importance to politics. the 1.4 billion spent online in 2016 was almost eight times higher than 2012. failure to subject ads on the internet to the same diss closure regime -- disclosure regime -- [inaudible] and it will allow more mischief from foreign adversaries like russia's med untiling 2016. meddling in 2016. the act introduce by senators cloak shar, mccain and warner, offers a promising framework to
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insure such disclosure. congress could also close other loopholes that allow secrecy and potentially foreign money like spending by dark money organizations and foreign-owned corporations. these steps are surely needed. investigations into the 2016 election have reveal a multi-pronged effort by the russian government to alter the course of debate by injecting dedivisive messages into the american political discussion. as has been mentioned, firms linked to the kremlin bought thousands of online ads on platforms seen by millions of people. the ads have still not been released to the public, but they reportedly discussed political issues including messages advocating the election of candidates all while the russians disguised their identities. russia will be back and, of course, we must watch for copycats china, north korea and even isis. most immediately, this challenge so to the american people's political sovereignty and the
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first amendment values of transparency in politics requires updating campaign finance laws for the internet age. congress should include paid ads on the internet and the definition of election nearing communications from the mccain-feingold bill. this would have two bin fits. it would -- benefits. it would expand the ban on foreign spending and increase transparency around online ads making information about who is paying for them publicly available. in addition, online platforms should be required to maintain public files of political ads. that would essentially extend to the internet the federal communications commission requirement that broadcasters maintain a public file of political ads. and online platforms along with other businesses that sell ads should be required to make reasonable efforts to prevent political ads from being sold to foreign nationals. all of these elements are present in the honest ads act. moving beyond the internet,
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holes in campaign finance disclosure rules allow dark money organizations to spend on politics without revealing their donors. in order to close the holes, congress should enact the disclose act. another blind spot in campaign finance results from corporations' ability to spend in elections. congress should expand the ban on foreign election spending to domestic corporations substantially owned or controlled by foreign nationals as representative rahs kins -- [inaudible] get money out of u.s. elections would do. finally, these proposals need vigorous enforcement, yet deadlocks at the fec have increased. congress can reform the agency including by making the number of commissioners odd and requiring at least one member to be nonpartisan. thank you, and i'm happy to answer any questions you may have. >> i'd like to thank all the gentlemen for your opening remarks, and we're going to start the first line of questioning with the gentleman
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from michigan, mr. mitchell. you're recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chair. it appears to me that a number of the individuals testifying today are conflating general or social ads, opinion posts -- admittedly political ads -- as being the same thing. as mr. rothenberg notes, there were a lot of sophisticated posts, i'm quoting, about social-political issues by operators of those outside the united states. how are we going to determine what's fake news and real news? who determines that for us? >> well, i wouldn't ask the platforms to determine it. i mean -- >> that doesn't answer my question, sir. who determines that? if we're going to say we're going to stop fake news in america and, trust me, i'm not a -- you should see my facebook posts.
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it's not exactly a wonderful thing to read some days, trust me. who's going to stop it? >> no one's going to determine what's fake news. there's a pre-existing -- i agree with you that conflating political ads with, you know, bad content is incorrect. and the, there is a pre-existing regulatory regime about political ads. >> well, let me -- >> and on the quote-unquote fake news front, there's a twofold problem. people get garbage over their news feeds online in the same way that -- >> i only get five minutes, sir. let me ask the next question for you -- >> okay. >> -- which is a number of the newspapers that you represent printed a variety of articles about the upcoming tax reform and tax cut bill that's pending. they quoted a variety of sources as being that the rich are going to benefit, that the majority of the tax cuts are going to be for the rich and quoted some sources. did you detail the funding sources of those groups that
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made that, that made that quote? >> with regard to those pieces or other pieces, you know who to complain to. you can complain to the publisher or reporters -- >> all due respect, no newspaper in my community reported any of those sources. and ors n., as it -- and, in fact, the tax brackets have not been published, the bill's not been published. yet somehow if you read the newspapers in my community, they've already determined how the tax bill is going to work based upon some groups that are funded by, i'll admit, progressive groups. so my question is if we're going to be fair in terms of the information being put out, this comes from a group that's largely funded by pick whatever term you wanted to do, would you not post what their bias is? >> congressman, what i would say is you know who to complain to which is the publisher and the reporters whose names are -- >> well, ai assure you, that hasn't had much difference.
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the distinction i want to suggest to your group is that there's a difference between your response for the people you employ, their opinions they put forward. you note very clearly in opinion ads or opinion columns who the writer is. i've done a number of them. you're responsible for that content or the individual that makes their opinion pieces is responsible for the content. that's clear. the difference is on the internet, internet posts, that the provider, intermediary is not responsible for it. they didn't write it, they didn't hire them, they didn't determine who they are, yet you want them held to a standard that's like your newspaper when it's an entirely different format. >> i wouldn't assert that, congressman. >> you did in your testimony, with all due respect. let me move on real quick, i've got just a minute left here. mr. vanderwalker, can you help me understand then given your perspective on it, we're going to allow the federal government to term what is appropriate content in social media?
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we're going to have them determine, well, that's a political ad, that's not? we're going to leave it up to a group of people to decide that? >> well, no. the idea is to incorporate an existing framework that already is out there. it's a bright line test. candidate mentions within a certain time period above a certain spending threshold. >> clearly, the bright line hasn't worked. reality is an awful lot of these posts are questioned as influencing the election. well outside the bright line. so who's going to determine that? >> well, again, the bright line keeps you from having someone have to determine it. certainly, there are things outside of the bright line, but, you know, having a bright line and having people understand that they can post if it's below a spending threshold protects speech and protects the ability of people to talk about legislative issues without having a decision maker have to make judgment cls every time. >> let me suggest to the group
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and i've suggested internally here to other members, our first responsibility here is to protect the constitution. the first amendment is the first amendment for a reason. we need to defeapped that even if some -- defend that even if some people think it's fake news because one person's preponderance on fake news is another person's opinion. thed idea we're going to let -- the idea that we're going to let bure bureaucrats reck late offends me. i yield back. >> the honorable robin kelly from illinois is now recognized. >> thank you, mr. chair. in january of this year, the intelligence community released its assessment that russian president vladimir putin ordered an influence campaign aimed at the u.s. presidential election. according to that assessment, and i quote, moscow's influence campaign followed a russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations such as cyber activity with overt efforts by russian agency, state-funded media, paid social
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media users or trolls. only one month ago, as i said before, facebook revealed that a company linked to the russian government bought 3,000 ads aimed at amplifying divisive issues. these ads are believed to have reached ten million people in the united states. to be clear, this is just the ads we know about, there are likely to be more due to the nature of dingal -- digital advertising. are our current laws and regulations sufficient? if not, why not? >> well, unfortunately, too much of the internet is left out right now. we have, as i mentioned, a regime that applies to political spending in mass media, and at the time that that regime was enacted, the important mass media were covered. but now the internet is far more important than it was then, and it's only gaining in importance. and it should be brought into
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the regime that exists so that spending above thresholds should be covered, a similar requirement to disclosures for political ads under the fcc rule for broadcasters should be, should be applied to internet ad s as well when they're paid for. >> okay. mr. rothenberg, your testimony characterizes this as a supply chain issue. what do the members of your industry that are a part of that supply chain need to do to prevent this issue? >> i think they need to participate in both our existing programs of industry-wide self-regulation that have been very successful. we've built them to give consumers disclosure and control over their privacy, other their data flows in digital advertising environments, and we've built another that
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requires disclosure to prevent fraudulent activity from taking place. so i think we need much more aggressive participation in those, and we would welcome congress' support for that. and i think we can, we can build out from those programs to create better conditions for not just disclosure, but i call it supplier qualification. i mean, basically, if you take a couple steps back, if you think about your local supermarket or even something as large as your local walmart, nothing goes on those shelves without it having gone through a series of sluice gates that give everyone a bit of assurance that those products are safe. we have created mechanisms that can do the same thing, and i think we ought to build out those mechanisms and get more, more comprehensive participation in them. >> thank you.
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besides lax self-regulation of advertising a appearing on social media, there's also the proliferation of fake accounts. on election day thousands of fake accounts coordinated messages aimed at disparaging secretary clinton and democrats. print media still contains a large amount of advertising. what are its responsibilities in terms of political advertising? >> well, its responsibilities are those that it's traditionally had and upheld which is to develop a safe and trusting environment for its readers. most of our content is now delivered digitally, and the biggest things we can do there are let people know where the information has come from, what is the source of the information. the ig best -- biggest issue, from my perspective, with fake news is that it comes out of nowhere and is fed to them the same way other legitimate news the is fed to them.
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the best thing is to be clear about where the news is coming from, what the source of it is. >> just out of curiosity, do you, with print media, do you feel like -- you said you want to provide a safe and trusting -- do you feel like most of your readers feel that way or trust what they read -- >> i think they do can find -- we have a extremely loyal and growing audience for our news product. the audience is bigger than it's ever been in history across all the platforms. and the fact of the matter is people want credible information about the world and their community. they primarily come to us to get it. >> should digital political ads be held to a different standard than other political ads in media? >> no. i come back to the -- we're in a platform-agnostic world where you get information 16 different ways, which is all good. but the rules can't be, can't be divvied up by platform. we're going to need to come up with a set of rules that goes
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with the content, not with the platform. >> what do you think that you can do to do a better job helping readers distinguish between the real news and content that comes from questionable sources or the fake news? >> i mean, there's always been crazy conspiracy theories. i think we've all got uncles that have told us crazy stuff, but that's always been different from the newspaper in your driveway or what's on tv. what's happened now is it all gets nut a blender and fed to you so that the real news sources and crazy conspiracy theories come the same way. you don't want anybody censoring content, but you need to give readers more information, indicate much more clearly where it's coming from and these algorithms to which we are all subject to the in our lives need to give credit to people who pay reporters for real reporting. >> thank you. yield back. >> now i'd like to recognize my friend and colleague from the great state of texas, mr. farenthold, you're recognized for five minutes for
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questions. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. ms. kelly asked you a question, and i don't think you adequately answered. are there any federal government regulations on political ads placed in the newspaper? is there anything a newspaper has to do? by law? >> as the primary responsible party, no, it's on the advertiser. >> so, and you say federal regulations should be platform-neutral. so it would also, by extension, be the federal government should not place any regulations on internet platforms as well. treat them the same as a print newspaper, is that correct? >> as long as the regulation around the advertisement itself is the same. as long -- if there are disclosure regulations on whoever they're from, they have to be whether it's online or on your watch, it's, you know, people are consuming content in every way. so the requirements, whoever they may fall on, should fall without regard to the platform.
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>> all right. so, mr. rothenberg -- actually, is there anybody on the panel who disagrees with that? >> well, i would, i would just add one kind of code da to it. the law has long -- and i'd defer to mr. goodman on this too. law has long recognized that broadcasting is different -- >> scarcity of the airwaves, held to the public trust. i'm an old radio guy. >> right. so with that as a known exception, platform-agnosticism makes sense, yes. >> all right. so let's talk a little bit about there's a difference in the way that ads are placed. there's been a lot about, you know, who's buying these ads and the disclosures. typically in the newspaper you actually probably talk to a salesman or talk to somebody on the phone. if you're going to buy something on an online platform, it's typically done online. let's say i'm boris or natasha from moscow and have a pile of rubles i've converted into american dollars. i go buy a cash card visa, rent
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a post office box, and ain't nobody going to know i'm a foreign national. do you see that as a problem? >> yeah. well, as i said in my testimony -- and it's not necessarily a popular point of view across my entire industry -- every company should know to some degree of comfort and certainty who it's doing business with. that's a fundamental principle whether you're making a car or whether you're running a grocery store. so i think that it is not just possible, but necessary to have some kind of supplier qualification and customer qualification safeguards in place. >> all right. so now let's go to the other problem that people are complaining about in social media. i think there's -- you may actually have more effect in elections on, say, twitter or maybe facebook with bots. just posting something at no cost.
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a bad actor may spend $100,000 hiring a programmer to create bots and start posting stuff. that's -- how do we deal, is there a technological way to detect that? i understand that's a problem in the industry worldwide dealing with bots. what do you do about that, and how do you not get legitimate people who are trying to exercise their first amendment rights wrapped up in that? >> sir, you have just identified the absolute, total nut of the problem, the dilemma. but it's not unsolvable. i don't think you can come up with anything that will ever be 100% full proof because the technology is very low barrier to entry and will always evolve. it's like a game of whack-a-mole. they're always going to find new ways to do things, but i keep coming back -- i'm sorry i sound like a broken record. nobody actually knows what a record is these days. i'm sorry i keep repeating myself, but i think elements of
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supplier qualification, knowing with whom you're doing business up and down the supply chain and billing that into a comprehensive self-regulatory program will go, and is we have proof that it goes a long way to reducing the bot traffic. >> under some sort of self-regulatory program, you're going to have to have the ability of a social media platform or web site operator, whomever, to reject something. where, where do you draw the line that they're being treated fairly? let's say i start whatever the new search engine is, and i'm going to turn down all ads from liberals because i'm a conservative. how do we address that? >> well, first of all, it's your right. you can do anything you want and prevent anybody you want from coming on. if you want to grow and you want to create a larger business, you want to be as open as possible. so you have to find a balance. i know that may come off as a
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little mealy mouthed, but there is a balance between using technology systems is and human oversight to determine the quality of your supply chain participant -- >> but how does somebody know, for instance, say my algorithm to determine what's in a user's news feed, i could suddenly weight that to conservative messages, and it might be years before somebody figures that out. >> it's true. the same has long existed in every other medium as well. there's been political bias. sometimes it's subtle and sometimes it's not so is the. [laughter] >> you find that on cable news, i'm sure. you choose your channel -- >> and you choose your technology. >> thank you very much. i see my time has expired. >> now recognize the distinguished gentleman from jan, mr. raskin, for five minutes. >> mr. chairman, thank you very much. mr. rothenberg, you've spoken about building integrity into the supply chain which then leaves the obvious question, what went wrong in 2016?
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why are we in the situation we're in? why didn't that happen? >> well, to quote a former secretary of defend, you can't plan for the unknown unknowns. we did very explicitly and beginning back over the 11, 12 years i've been in this job working with our partner associations, the association of national advertisers, the aaa as built very effective self-regulatory programs for known knowns, consumer privacy controls for bot fraud. but nobody had anticipated illicit russian actors. you think you're ready next time or you're getting ready for next time? >> well, you know, i was -- intelligence agencies say they're coming back. >> oh, they will be. they will be. but i'll give you kind of a warning borne of my older profession. back, way back in my dark past history i covered politics in political media for "the new
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york times." and i developed a principle back in the late '80s that we're always covering the last election. the media and the way communications happen are always outrunning our thoughts about what's going to happen. i don't think anybody anticipated the degree to which twitter was going to be a massive social influence, let alone bots. so, yes, i think it's -- we can very much be prepared for the bot traffic problem, but we don't know what mole is going to pop up in that game. >> gotcha. thank you. you've made what seems like an intuitively obvious point that the internet is properly analogized to tv and radio in terms of its, in terms of the medium, in terms of its impact, in terms of how it works and, therefore, the rules that apply in the tv context and broadcast context should also apply in the internet. and all of us that are familiar
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with that, we have to say that, you know, we paid for this ad and we stand by this ad and all that kind of stuff. but what about the problem which is kind of floating around from the beginning of the hearing that it seems as if of the hundreds and hundreds of facebook pages and twitter messages and bots that were put out by the russians, many of them were just meant to sow chaos and to inject poison into the american body politic. they would not fall within the communications definition that we've got under the mccain-feingold legislation. what -- can anything be done about that, or is it as mr. rothenberg is suggesting, well, we've learned our lesson from now 2016, and now the public is going to be much more wary or should be, and media and internet companies themselves should try to be on top of this problem? >> right. i mean, i think as you noted we should close the doors that we know we can close. i don't think that's all that can be done. for example, the political ad
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database encompassed in the honest ads act actually goes beyond electioneering and communications because it involves issues of legislative importance so would create a publicly-available record that researchers could use to try to piece together what's coming from where, who's being targeted and what are the messages. that could be, i think, extremely valuable in understanding what the sort of next attacks are and how to respond. and then i think there are more things to be done sort of outside the realm of campaign finance, and that's going to require industry and congress working together in the ways that mr. rothenberg has proposed and really figuring out how to get on top of this thing. >> let me ask you another question. the supreme court upheld our traditional ban on foreign nationals spending money in u.s. elections. that's not covered by citizens united if they are not a u.s.
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individual or a corporation. however, foreign money could take over domestic corporations, as you were suggesting before, and then money could be channeled through this citizens united loophole directly into the political system. is that something that you think we can tighten up as well? >> yes. definitely, you know, regulation has in many ways not caught up with citizens united even though it was several years ago now. a corporation's ability to spend unlimited amounts on politics either directly or through superpacs requires dealing with the problem that even a domestic corporation which can wholly owned or controlled by foreign powers. and that should be tightened up. one of the ways would be to, as proposed, set some kind of percentage, ownership percentage by foreign nationals or foreign governments and say above this even a domestically cite corporation can't spend on
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politics. >> mr. chairman, thank you very much. i yield back. >> i recognize myself for five minutes. this question is to everybody on the panel. you can say yes/no, you can elaborate, just don't take too long if you're going to elaborate. and we'll go your left to y'all's right. laws like the federal election campaign act, the mccain-feingold, supreme court cases like citizens united, do those refer to and should those cover all political advertisements whether express advocacy or issue advocacy despite the platform? mr. vandewalker? >> yes. i think our campaign finance regime at its heart is about transfers of money designed to influence politics. whether that means buying a political ad, writing a check directly to a candidate, there are different ways that that can
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play out in detail. but, yes, i think -- >> mr. rothenberg? >> no. opinion is protected. issues are protected. that is not just a slippery slope, you're already three-quarters of the way down that slope. when it's about candidates and about actual advocacy for or against the candidate, then clearly that falls within the scope of -- >> yeah, that's what i asked. i asked specifically for express advocacy you should vote for this guy or don't vote for that guy or the issue call your congressman if this, any of those types of political speech, should that fall under these laws and supreme court cases despite the medium? whether it's -- >> yeah. >> -- whether you're sending a peat of mail in the -- a piece of mail in the mailbox or it's a digital ad? >> yes, they absolutely can. you've got to make certain adjustments for the differences among the media. you can't have video rules applying to audio and vice versa. >> gotcha. >> yeah, sure.
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>> mr. goodman. >> i agree it doesn't matter the medium under the court's precedents. to the extent speech can be regulate 3 under those -- regulated under those case, it doesn't matter how you say it. >> yes as to free advocacy. >> my first amendment expert, mr. dickerson. >> [inaudible] >> microphone, please, mr. dickerson? >> i'll learn that eventually. yes as regards, as it involves platforms with a caveat which is that, you know, the amount of money that is being regulated is important. the fact that it is cheaper to run an ad in some media versus another doesn't change the burdens on the speaker and their resources in complying with the regulatory regime. so if we're talking apples to apples, certainly. >> so if somebody, you know, coming from the great state of texas where i'm in the only competitive district in the
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state, i'm very familiar with all of the political advertisements that may or may not be run against me. if somebody's running ads against me, there's a public file. is that correct? or, i guess, mr. goodman. let's say if they were doing it on television -- >> if they were doing it on radio, television, there's a public file. and depending on whether they are your opposing candidate or an independent group, different information would be in that file. >> and what law governs that? >> it's largely the communications act, and there were amendments to that act by the mccain-feingold act in 2002. >> is that the same for print? >> in terms of the -- >> a public file. like, do i know -- >> no, there's not a public file requirement. as a matter of fact, i would take this opportunity, i think this is a time where congress can look and see what
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requirements are need for across the platforms. i think looking forward you have to say what's rational and required and, for example, do you need a public repository when you have the internet. currently -- >> or should it be available on the internet. >> right. >> mr. rothenberg, you obviously know you're next. >> well, on that one -- >> when it comes to, specifically, digital platforms. >> you're talking about the public file? >> public file, yeah. >> yeah. i think that it's hard under the law and under first amendment history to require the public file to reside with different media. it's hard to take something that was based on the stewardship of the airwaves and import it over to something as open and diverse as the internet. but what i don't understand is why you can't place those requirements on the campaigns themselves. they know what they're spending. they know where they're spending it. they can create public file, and that would be available across all media.
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rather than burdening the end nodes, the edge providers. >> so my first question to all of y'all were the rules that govern express advocacy should apply to all mediums. but we're saying when it comes to the public file and making sure that what advertisements are and timing and amounts, that should only apply to broadcasters? is that what i just heard? >> interesting. what i would say is you can apply it, but you should place the burden on the campaigns, not on the media that are not responsible for selling the ads. >> mr. dickerson, can you help me understand any first amendment issues with this notion of a public file? >> well, i mean, the most basic is that it's not costless.
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>> it's not? >> it's not costless. i mean, it's necessarily burdening speech in the sense that certain types of advertisers have to do things that others don't. we've largely lived with that because, you know, as i explained in my written testimony, the sort of speech that's being done on broadcast tends to be larger amounts of money, there are human beings who are making determinations as to express advocacy. >> so are you saying that i should have to do it on television, but somebody else shouldn't have to do it in another medium? if somebody's running against me and they shouldn't have the same -- >> i mean, i personally would question the utility of a lot of the exercise in the sense that i'm not sure this information's actually used in ways that are useful from a first amendment standpoint. but if we were going to have them, we need to be careful to insure that only the sort of sophisticated actors like political campaigns and that only the sort of speech that is clearly about elections -- >> yeah. and i want to make sure i'm
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clear. when i ask questions, it's narrow, express advocacy. mr. dickerson, i appreciate that. now i would like to recognize the gentleman from massachusetts, mr. lynch, you're recognized for five minutes. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. and i want the take a special moment just to thank you and to thank ranking member kelly for holding this hearing. this is incredibly important. i want to thank the panel members as well. and although ranking member kelly mentioned that it's only been a month since facebook came out and said, yes, the russians did purchase $100,000 on facebook to influence the election, it has been a very long time since members of congress have been asking to have an investigation on the interference of a foreign government -- in this case russia -- with our democratic elections. it goes back a long way. and this is the first time, mr. chairman, you are the first, you are the first to hold a public
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hearing on the hacking of our election. and i want to thank you for that. i mean, we go all the way back to september 2015 when the fbi actually contacted the dnc to say the russians are hacking your web site. and the democratic national committee did not act promptly on that warning. and so the hacking continued. and then in june 2016, it became public of the russian hacking, widely reported. in december 2016, every tsenging one of -- single one of the u.s. intelligence agency heads went public and said that with high confidence -- this is december of 2016 -- with high confidence they could say that the russians were hacking our election. in september of 2016, senator feinstein and representative adam schiff came forward, and
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they said based on their positions as ranking members of the intelligence committee they had information from their hearings that the russians were hacking our elections. and, yes, again last month facebook came out and said, yeah, the russians purchased -- with rubleds -- $100,000 in ads and interfered with our elections. so all that happened, and today's the fist day of the hearing. today's the first public hearing that we're having on the infringements made by a foreign government on the united states elections. that's shameful that it took so long. so i'm going to -- you know, we're talking about campaigns in general and limitations on campaign advertising. but again, i'm going to repeat my request, and when i say "repeat," back in december 2016, december 14th, i submitted this letter to the chairman of our committee at that time,
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mr. chaffetz, asking him for a hearing on the russian interference with our election. no response. on april 3, 2017, i repeated the effort again. i wrote a letter to this committee saying, look, this is the oversight committee. this is our national election. can we, please, have a hearing on the russian interference with our election. no response. again, i join -- this time i thought maybe it was just me, to i asked all my colleagues to join with me to a letter to jason chaffetz and also the honorable bob goodlatte, on may 16, 2017, could we, please, could we please have a hearing on russian interference in our election. it's very, very important to our democracy. they hacked the rnc and the dnc. both parties. we should be bipartisan about the integrity of our elections. and, again, up til today no action. and we're having a a hearing today on political advertising, but we still haven't had a
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single hearing, single public hearing on the russian interference in our election. ironically today i did learn in politico that mr. goodlatte has announced the 11th hearing on the clinton investigation, on the hillary clinton investigation. the department of justice investigation of secretary clinton. so it's, you know, we've got to get together on this stuff, and i know it might be painful for everyone. i actually asked ms. wasserman schultz would she come and testify. yes, she said, she would. it would be difficult, but she would. she would come and help us delve into what actually happened. so let me ask you with my remaining 30 seconds, mr. vandewalker, you're familiar with the honest ads act that my friend mr. killer in and senator mccain have put out there. seems straightforward. give me your opinion on that, please. >> we think it's -- we take the
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position that it is an excellent framework to apply to, to address the problem of political spending which to close tours on foreign spending that can come in and affect elections by bringing the internet into an established framework that exists for political spending in other mass media. >> thank you. mr. chairman, i thank you for your indulgence, and i yield back balance of my time. >> mr. lynch, thank you. and i can't -- i appreciate the kind words, but i also want to highlight that there have been a number of hearings open and closed on the house permanent select committee on intelligence -- >> i haven't, i haven't seen them. >> on the issue of this. but this, again, making sure that we're -- i'm glad we have, we're doing this in a bipartisan way. with that, it's now a pleasure to recognize the gentleman from the commonwealth of virginia, mr. connolly, for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for having this
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hearing. i find it a remarkable moment in our democracy when so many up here apparently can see and hear no evil when it comes to russian interference with the american election process. irrespective of who benefited. but can beat a dead horse when it comes to what kind of server was used to somebody's e-mails. i think, i think that's an indictment of the enabling and complicit behavior we have seen all too much of since mr. trump was signed in as president of the united states. what could be more sacred than protecting everyone's franchise and the integrity of that process in a democracy? when it is interfered with, deliberately, strategically targeted by a foreign
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adversary -- not an ally, an adversary -- why wouldn't we be doing everything in our power on a bipartisan basis to make sure that can never happen again? and that's really the context of this hearing. mr. goodman, from a legal point of view, in my state -- the great commonwealth of virginia -- when i do a campaign ad, if i do one, i'm required by law at the enof it to have a trailer -- end of it to have a trailer saying i paid for this, this is my campaign ad. it's a stand by your ad kind of requirement, law. in a sense, that's sir kick scribing -- circumscribing my free speech, is it not? >> to some extent. the courts so far have never questioned the ability of the government to require disclosure. and with respect to one part of that which is the i'm gerald connolly and i paid for this ad,
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that at least with respect to the fcc is something you can choose to do or not do, but if you don't do it, you are not entitled to the candidate discount rate. >> right. >> so it's your choice. >> but the point here is there's precedent for circumscribing alternative -- certain forms of political advertisement. >> no one has ever questioned those particular requirements, to my knowledge, in court. but the supreme court has in all of its cases said disclosure is largely the remedy, and i would think this would be within the scope of disclosure. >> uh-huh. so, mr. vandewalker, given the fact that there is precedent -- that's one example, there are lots of other examples -- of circumscribing what otherwise would be free speech. tobacco advertising, example. the government makes a producer of a certain product actually add words to its packaging it does not want to add but that are required by law. so there's precedent.
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no one wants to infringe the first amendment, but one of our friends on the other side of the aisle earlier made it seem as if the choice were, you know, gut the first amendment or deal with this problem. and it seems to me those are not the only two options in front of us. your comment. >> that's right. there are sort of limits on the amount of speech in various ways, and it's important to recognize there are first amendment interests on both sides; that is, the listener has an interest in knowing who is speaking to them so that they can evaluate that message. the sort of democratic interests in voters knowing who's piping up for a candidate, that tells you something about what that candidate stands for. holding candidates accountable for the financial support that they get. as well as being able to evaluate is this message, you know, about some political issue
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coming to me from an environmentalist group or an oil industry, and do i trust which one of those and taking those sorts of things -- >> i'm going to run out of time, so let me just, you know, do boris and natasha operating from the dasha in the outskirts of moscow trying to corrupt american democracy through multiple social media and digital ads, do they have the same unfetteredded first amendment rights that anybody else does in the united states? >> no. >> they don't? why not? >> well, for a number of reasons. you know, constitutional rights in general are diminished at most -- at the very least for foreign nationals not within the united states. but also it's important to note that in the democracy sphere as noted in the blumen opinion that was referenced earlier, we have this self-governing community.
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we are governing ourselves, and that is why we have a democracy and a first amendment, and others do not necessarily -- >> and, therefore, we have a right to protect ourselves from boris and natasha. >> right. >> thank you. >> mr. murphy, you're now recognized for your five minutes of questions. >> thank you, chairman hurd and ranking member kelly, for holding this important hearing on our political advertisement disclosure laws. you know, regardless of our political affiliations, we all agree that our elections are the cornerstone of our democracy. and transparency and the security of elections must be protected at all costs. foreign efforts to undermine both our elections and the elections of other western democracies must be taken seriously. this congress has a responsibility to insure that all future elections are protected against foreign meddling.
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mr. vandewalker, we've heard today the suggestion and we've seen in at least written testimony that russian internet ad buys were just simply too small to be considered a nefarious foreign influence given the actual amount of money spent on electioneering ads versus other means of russian propaganda. would you agree with the idea that any effort by a foreign adversary to sway our elections regardless, regardless of whether or not those efforts have a significant impact on the outcome of an election are troubling? >> yes. i mean, first of all, we don't know the extent. so we haven't seen the maximum figure. but, yes, any amount of, again, trying to influence american elections contrary to our self-sovereignty is problematic. >> you know, mr. vandewalker, earlier this month facebook stated that about ten million people -- ten million people had seen these ads. how concerning would you say
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those estimates are? and how does that impact the public's trust of our news media and our democratic institutions? >> right. i mean, i think it's very troubling. and, again, that should not be considered an upper bound. facebook said that was the awed cents that the paid ads reached. those same profiles produced unpaid content that reached probably, potentially, tens of millions more. therewe don't yet know. and that's one of the problems with not having very much disclosure in this area, we actually still don't know the extent of the reach. and we need more information about who's trying to sway our political opinions. >> so it may have reached tens of millions of people, not just ten million. through the purchase of thousands of ads and the use of russian-linked accounts or bots on various social media platforms, russia's government was able to manipulate the internet's open access to information to spread lies,
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inflammatory rhetoric and other propaganda in the hopes of swaying voters both in the united states and france. among other places. multiple news reports found that on facebook alone there were hundreds of profiles linked to russian agents that spread false information regarding one of the presidential candidates as well as issues like immigration, guns and other divisive topics. during the french elections, there were similar efforts to spread false information regarding one of their presidential candidates. mr. vandewalker, one final question. in your opinion, are we taking as a body in congress the issue of foreign infiltration of our internet sites seriously enough? [laughter] >> i think there's been a lot of discussion from, you know, our perspective at the brennan
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certain, we value transparency which is crucial in elections always and is especially crucial now to address this foreign influence. we certainly think more action could be taken. there are bills that have been introduced that would help address this problem. >> do you anticipate that the russians and others are going to continue these efforts in the ramp-up to 2018? >> everything i've seen from the intelligence community indicates that, yes, they are. >> thank you. >> the gentleman from the great state of washington and a friend, welcome to the oversight committee. you're always, you're always welcome. love to see you at future hearings. mr. kilmer is now recognized for five minutes. >> thanks, chairman hurd and ranking member kelly both for overseeing this important hearing and for letting me sit in with your subcommittee. the our democratic republic, that system in which we, the people, are the boss has become
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vulnerable to foreign actors that want to disrupt our system of government to influence electoral outcomes. and from the reports that we've read so far, foreign actors targeted american voters to have the maximum impact on our elections. and that's unacceptable, and that's something, thankfully, that both democrats and republicans have agreed needs to be stopped. that's why we introduced the honest ads act, myself and congressman coffman with input from my good colleague, representative sarbanes and senators klobuchar, mccain and warner. and our bill would have the federal election commission rules for online advertisements similar to what's already in place for tv, radio and satellite as. those rules require disclosure of who's buying what ads where. and that's vital if we're going to insure transparency to affirm the public's right to know. and it's important that if we're going to -- that's increasingly important if we're going to keep foreign money out of our
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politics. just based on some of the comments that have been made, i think it's important to acknowledge requiring disclosure when someone purchases a radio or tv ad does not prohibit or inhibit free speech, nor does holding those purchases in a public file. the supreme court has long recognized that commercial speech such as political advertisements is not subject to the same protections as a citizen's comment to speak up in the public square. i appreciate mr. chavren's comment that applying those disclosure requirements to internet-based advertisements should be no different than what happens with radio and tv media, and i also appreciate congressman raskin's comment that, certainly, this bill doesn't solve all of the problem that is we saw in this last election cycle. but this would at least solve the discreet issue of the public's right to know whether a
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foreign actor is trying to purchase an ad on the internet. i have a bunch of questions, but i'm going to try to limit them. first, mr. rothenberg, could you speak to the challenges of perhaps the burden of keeping the file. if the public file requirement were on the purchaser of the ad or on the campaign, i guess my question is how, how could the government insure compliance by foreign actors if we went in the direction that you suggested previously? >> well, i'm not sure that you could assure that no matter whom you put the burden on. it will always be difficult if front groups and then front groups beyond front groups can actually take out the ads. doesn't matter where the burden is placed in that regard. but i would say that one of the problems that i have with the honest ads act is it's placing the burden in no small part on smaller publishers that don't have the financial wherewithal
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to shoulder that burden. and when they're not the ones that are actually responsible for placing most of those ads. >> so let me dive into the detail of that with mr. chavren. the honest ads act would apply an fcc-style political file requirement to the largest platforms that sell paid online political ads. it currently defines a large online platform as those with 50 million unique u.s. visitors per month, so i guess i might suggest that that might differentiate from the concern that you just raised. i guess my question is what's your view on that figure? do you have a sense of what types of platforms would be captured at that level? >> off the top of my head, it's hard for me to deal with specific metrics other than clearly at this point in time there are two large social media platforms that get the bulk of
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people's attention and ad revenue. that may change over time, by the way, so we will need some metric of size. i would come back to one thing mr. rothenberg stated that i certainly agree with, with regard to the honest ads act, with regard to the stated purpose of equal treatment, i think we've talked a lot about that today and how there may be value in that. we're still studying the implications of all the components of it. in particular, the repository and database and, you know, what kind of database for any platform, by the way, is required in this new kind of converged digital age. so, but fundamentally to answer your question there's two clear candidates right now in terms of online platforms. but, you know, we'll have to consider the fact that there may be other ones and different ones in the future. >> it would include companies like hearst, conde nast,
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meredith, vox, vice media, basically a lot of newspapers and magazines that are not in the position to to take on extra burdens, financial burdens in reporting. 50 million unique users in the internet world is actually not a lot. >> thanks. thank you, mr. chairman. >> the gentleman from maryland, mr. sarbanes, you're now recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman, for permission to participate in the hearing. thank you for taking this issue as seriously as you have and also want to thank ranking member kelly for her focus on this, and i want to thank my colleague from washington for his leadership on the honest ads act which i think is a critical step as we prepare for the elections next week -- next year, a although it could be next week. it seems like it's coming fast and furious, and that's why we need to get ready for it. ..
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we've got to anticipate what comes next. it's hard to do that but in the baseline regime of disclosure in place with respect to what is happening online with the one thinwould be onething we could e ready than we are now and so we are going to encourage your colleagues to continue to push very hard for this kind of disclosure, which has the hearing has indicated is not out
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of line with the expectations that have been created with respect to the broadcast industry over time and the public i think indicated through the polling data that it wants to see this kind of information as well. advertisers should be allowed to make money for the election interference. how would you answer that question? do you think advertisers should be able to make money on the foreign interference? >> i think within reason we should be preventing the foreign interference in our elections and it logically follows from that combination could make a profit from it. yes, i think the question needs to be focused because it isn't
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whether for example somebody makes money off the ad about whether an advertiser is permitted to participate and i think that is one of the issues if there is going to be further disclosure requirements needs to be addressed which is online platforms like broadcasters say yes we are u.s. citizens and have a u.s. company and to determine whether that is accurate it has to be a government response. >> but i do think it goes to the question of the expectation that we should have from the advertisers themselves and what sort of responsibility they should carry to promote and keep track of these kind of things and i don't think as you
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indicated that we can enforce the standards i don't think that is realistic. the advertisers are the platforms receiving these positions to do that. it might be easy out of the gates to construct the algorithms but for just about everything else in the world they should be able to do this in order to enhance the disclosure. the so people can go there and get information about what is happening in terms of the
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spending on the campaigns themselves. do you have any reason to think the ftc would not be able to handle the responsibility of administering what is being envisioned under the honest ads act in terms of information being collected, public files being produced and being put in a place where the public can see it easily? isn't that a function the ftc could undertake? this point? >> that is one of the things and they have revamped the public space of the disclosures making them more searchable online answer to many policies can be developed in cooperation with social media as of the world who are good at putting things online to make it all feasible. >> thank you. i yield back the.
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does russia have first amendment rights in the united states? >> there's more than a russian would have on american soil. >> mr. goodman, can the government of russia by and add come to moscow i think that there would be a restriction on them by an act which would be explicit advocacy because that would be illegal under the u.s. election law. >> if they wanted to buy an add-on broadcast that said don't send weapons to ukraine. >> i'm no expert with respect to the foreign participation in the u.s. media but other than that,
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assuming they comply with the disclosure requirements there is no prohibition on their speaking in the u.s.. >> does the registration act have anything to do with that of disclosure or purchase? >> that is what i was referring to. >> can they run a political advertisement in th the newspaps thenewspapersaying don't send go ukraine? >> it wouldn't count as expressed advocacy. >> if they said call your congressman and tell them to support sending guns to the ukraine? >> once you get into the issue advocacy i would have the same question about foreign agent. >> can the russians run a digital ad that tells you to call your congressman and tell
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them not to support sending american guns to ukraine? >> i'm not an expert on that, so i cannot answer that question. >> do you have an opinion on either one of those three scenarios i just brought up? >> one of the things that could get at that is the political file requirement. not prohibition but -- >> is there >> is there a piece of law and court case that regulates whether the russian government could buy the ad on print broadcast or digital that says call your congressman and tell them to not send guns to the ukraine? >> not that i'm aware of. >> and i'm supportive of sending
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the guns to the ukraine to make that clear. >> it could be a communication if ther it were 60 days as mentd for someone running. >> your opinion on one of the scenarios. >> i am pleased to finally hear the registration act raised. it is a political file. this is a law that requires essentially a broad definition of political public communications and very low dollar thresholds to be found in the department of justice. to have physical copies in the department and a disclaimer saying it's being paid for by the government, i think a lot of it, the tragedy of the conversation is that in our efforts to get at the russian activity we are ignoring the tool directed at the foreign actors and instead of trying to expand walls that by definition expanded the american age and given the scope of the existing
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and the fact it could be expanded if it were in the committees and trust that strikes me as a narrow way of building the political fight over the speaking discussed. >> i recognize what is at stake is the integrity of the liberal democracy in our century. vladimir putin and his agents understood they could not compete with us militarily. they couldn't come here with us
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economically and they cannot compete with us politically on a fair stage because they've got nothing to sell but tierney and despotism but he detected a little but then the kiwis heel l in the united states which is our openness and freedom of expression on the internet which might be the most wide open of all of the forms of media that we have, so he took advantage of that and i think everybody here agrees that we were caught sleeping and if there were hundreds of thousands of dollars perhaps millions to invade every note and cranny of the internet to inject poison into the political process and to try to gerrymander the outcome of the election. now let me ask this first of all, can we do this in reverse,
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for example would we be allowed to spend whatever money we wanted in saudi arabia, and iran, russia, the philippines? do they allow people from the liberal democracies to a access the public with such ease, does anybody have an answer to that? >> for generations we did that through the voice of america and we did it very effectively. >> about the purchase of tv ads in saudi arabia or iran or russia to purchase i understand there is the voice of america which is announced it is disclosed and comes from the united states. but what about the kind of surreptitious penetration of the public consciousness that took
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place in 2016. that is something that the democrats oppose and have tried to stop in our perhaps we need some kind of global understanding about giving people in every society first -- to pursue those without covert interference by the foreign nations.
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would it be within the constitutional authority and province of congress to ban -- and i think perhaps the chairman was asking -- not just express advocacy spending but foreign nationals, corporations, governments, but also any political advertising taking place during the election season ? would we have the authority to do that to foreign nationals on the theory that they do not enjoy the first amendment rights of the american people? ,ndeed even permanent residents people in our part of the country, does anybody have an opinion on that?
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. they couldn't as a matter of due process determine what was we have drawn the line between express advocacy and generalized political advocacy but because the line exists, we have two separate categories. perhaps they could apply on both or entities,ple foreign governments, and corporations that decide they want to get involved in our elections. >> i think we are already there and express advocacy is banned. >> if we want to go beyond that to all political spending during our campaigns, for example it turns out the russian government cleverly got itself involved activities, black lives matter, doing everything
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possible to exasperate tensions in our country. >> i would think the department of state would have views on this. that is probably permissible given that things are defined in a way that is understandable and frankly congress has a bad track record. >> they have the ability to speak through public platforms and they have a right to do a facebook page, which is not the spending of any money. it seems to me when we talk about the expenditure of money in the political system, that is where it gets very dangerous because you cannot rerun an election. one contaminated election can take a country down a very dark road. i yield back. >> i recognize myself for another five minutes. this set of questions is for mr. siobhan, mr. goodman, mr. rothenberg. how much does it cost a month to host a website? >> i mean, you can do it for
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under $20 a month. >> would you agree? with wordpress? >> absolutely. >> how much does that cost? >> i think you can go up on wordpress -- there might be a free option. >> i believe there is a free option. when people do advertising on a digital platform, they fill out some form, upload the copy. that form gets stored somewhere and it gets pushed out, right? >> that is a good summary. >> so there is an electronic record of it? >> that i cannot speak to. >> could there be an electronic record? >> i imagine. >> could it get exported to an
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excel spreadsheet or google sheet? >> i imagine. >> and if you already own a website, publishing a spreadsheet or google sheet, how much does that cost? >> give me that again? >> if you already own a website, how much does it cost to publish a spread seat -- spreadsheet or google sheet to that site? >> you can upload that relatively simply. >> zero cost, right? -- would youus disagree with any of those or agree with mr. rothenberg's comments? >> yes. >> i am curious to know what burden we are putting on someone to publish the information of who is advertising. all, the ads that are going on to my wordpress
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blog, if i enabled it to take advertising, are not being bought. are not being sold by me directly. i have nothing to do with it. is the burden we are putting on the person displaying that add on your individual website? >> one of my concerns i expressed before with the way the honest ads act is worded, it would put the burden on me to keep those records, even though i have no involvement in the actual sale or distribution of that advertisement. >> i know it is hard to address everyone, and i get that. expunging on that information, the people that are collecting the advertising dollars, on what is being promoted? >> presumably they have it, but you are asking me to keep the records.
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i do not have any of those records. >> so the person that has a record, with the burden be for them to publish the details of that? .> that i do not know it depends on who they are and where they are in the system. >> mr. goodman, do you have an opinion? >> if you ask who is paying for the add, that is what broadcasters already do. there is a considerable amount of complaints that that is not that informative. there are citizens for good government, who that actually is. >> and a broadcaster goes back and says, who is your council and executive committee, and they did not get that. i am not asking for enforcement, i am asking what burden is there to publish the information, the data that is in hand? >> the information is currently uploaded to a website run by the sec and proven not to be a very
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significant -- fcc and proven not to be a very significant burden. >> the website example you gave, obviously the website viewed by you would have some ads. if i used the website they might have a totally different set of ads programmatically. i think you also have to take into account volume, and again these programmatic systems have no human touch related to them. in the volume of ads, in deciding -- >> with the same amount of effort to publish a 10 line ?xcel spreadsheet >> same level of effort. >> if you are collecting the information automatically, to display it is no difference in displaying 10 -- 10 lines versus
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. million lines you may have to pay for the size .f the file the burden to publish data that is already in hand you already have the data. what is the burden? >> it is where you are placing the burden. >> on whoever has it, who is collecting it? >> that depends on how you write the requirements. >> do you have an opinion on this exchange? >> no, i am excited to hear the answer. i do not have any time left. 10 seconds, what is it that you wish this committee would know about this topic that you have not been able to address? same question for all of you.
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and you do not have to say anything. if the answer is, we got it all, we got it all. >> i think the committee got it all. >> industry self-regulation with tough enforcement could go further than this congress could go in enforcing the rules. >> i think that whatever you do need to be clear so that the rules are understandable and their responsibility for enforcement is also well-established. >> let's figure out what rules for political advertising makes sense, no matter what the platform. let's take this moment to say, what do we really need? >> do not let me down. >> the courts have required us to have record-keeping burdens only in so far as the speeches in an election.
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to the extent that we are toying with using foreign intervention, which we can separately regulate , as an excuse to undo that burden, i think we are waiting into territory -- wading into territory that is much more uncharted. >> thank you for being here. the hearing record will remain open for two x -- two weeks for anyone to submit an opening argument. without objection, the subcommittee stands adjourned.
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>> [inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations] >> on monday, defense secretary james mattis and rex tillerson testify on military action before the foreign relations
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committee, 5:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. tuesday on c-span, live coverage of fema administrator rob long testifying before the senate homeland security committee on the federal government's hurricane response at 10:00 a.m. eastern here on c-span. officials fromop twitter, facebook, and google will testify on brushes used of social media. two will testify before separate committees, at 9:30 a.m. before the senate intelligence committee and 2:00 p.m. before the house intelligence committee. you can watch live on c-span3. weekend on c-span to, -- c-span2.


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