Social media regulation overextends to reach newspapers

Last year, the Legislature passed AB 248, the California Disclose Act, new political advertisement regulations that shed light on “dark money” in politics.

This year, Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) is running AB 2188 to specifically target online platforms that host advertising, imposing platform liability on those who host political ads. Proponents of the bill argue that a February 2018 poll of 617 likely California voters found that 73% of California voters favored “requiring social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to provide on political advertisements a clear link to a page with their top true funders”.

However, while the intent of the bill is to regulate Facebook in light of the 2016 election, news websites are also captured by the bill, which imposes publisher liability for an ad that fails to contain the required disclosures.

CNPA and the California Broadcasters Association expressed concerns with this in the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments, which passed the bill out on a 4-1 vote. Traditionally, laws have imposed liability for failure to include the proper information in political ads on the parties placing ads. AB 2188 would break from that standard for newspapers, which are captured by the bill’s definition of “online platform.”

CNPA has a commitment from the bill’s sponsor and author to continue working on amendments that would exclude traditional media websites from the expansive definition of “online platform.” The bill will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee in August. CNPA plans to negotiate amendments to the bill over the summer recess.