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Governor Brown Signs Social Media DISCLOSE Act

As previously blogged about here, California lawmakers recently introduced AB 2188 – The Social Media DISCLOSURE Act - aimed at political advertisements on social media platforms.  The legislation was authored by Assembly member Kevin Mullin.

On September 26, 2018, Governor Brown signed the social media finance disclosure bill, making California a national leader in the area of disclosure in online political ads.

"Last year, AB 249 (the DISCLOSE Act) set the standard for campaign finance disclosure for print, television and radio ads, generated for and against state initiatives and candidates," Mullin said.  "AB 2188 extends those tough requirements to social media, giving voters the ability to see the top three funders of political ads on the various social media platforms."

According to the accompanying press release, grassroots support from government groups was a key to the bill's success.  "With Governor Brown signing this landmark follow-up to the California DISCLOSE Act, we start shining a light on secret political money on social media by requiring, for the first time anywhere, that ballot measure ads and outside ads attacking or supporting candidates on social media show their top three funders," said the President of the California Clean Money Campaign.  "Every American who cares about democracy owes Governor Brown, Assembly Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin, and all the bold leaders in the California Legislature of both parties who helped AB 2188 pass an enduring debt of gratitude."

The press release also states that campaign spending in California has steadily increased with each election cycle, with over $1 billion spent on statewide ballot measures between 2012 and 2016.  It further states that before the implementation of AB 249, donors could hide behind layers of misleading organization names and top donors could be concealed by campaigns.  The DISCLOSE Act bolstered the requirements for disclosing the names of the top three funders of ballot measures and independent expenditures on television, radio and print ads.  AB 2188 extends those same requirements to online platforms.

"This legislation was successful because industry stakeholders listened and responded to the concerns raised about the lack of transparency related to advertising on social media and other online platforms," Mullin also stated.  "Everyone who participated in our discussions demonstrated a commitment to our democracy and to transparency in our elections.  As the epicenter of social media technologies, it stands to reason that California would create a strong disclosure template to be replicated by other states, and hopefully (eventually) the federal government."

© 2020 Hinch Newman LLPNational Law Review, Volume VIII, Number 270

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About this Author

Richard Newman, FTC Defense Lawyer, Internet Marketing, Hinch Newman Law Firm

Richard B. Newman is a nationally recognized FTC defense lawyer and advertising compliance attorney.  He regularly provides advertising counsel and represents clients in high-profile investigations (CIDs) and enforcement proceedings initiated by the Federal Trade Commission, state attorneys general, departments of consumer affairs, and other federal and state agencies with jurisdiction over advertising and marketing practices.  Richard’s practice also concentrates upon transactional matters relating to the dissemination of national advertising campaigns, including the...

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