Former FEC Chairwoman Calls for ‘Regulations’ of Political Speech on the Internet

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By Ian Miles Cheong | 4:50 pm, April 14, 2017
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The former Federal Election Commission chairwoman Ann M. Ravel says that political speech must be controlled on social media. She presented her remarks in a speech at UC Berkeley, calling for regulations against “fake news.”

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Speaking at an event called “Future of Democracy,” Ravel argued the proliferation of “fake news” and political advertising on platforms like Facebook influenced elections. She warned that the lack of disclosure by the creators of these campaigns was becoming a huge problem.

“We know that there’s a lot of campaigning that’s moved to the internet, whether it’s through fake news or just outright advertising and there is almost no regulation of this, very little,” she said. “And so that the disclosure that we expect as to who is behind campaigns is not going to exist soon”

“Some people are even predicting that by 2020 most of the advertising is going to move from television to the internet, and I think this is a serious issue that requires a lot of discussion,” continued Ravel.

During her tenure as the chairwoman of the FEC, Ravel previously called for right-leaning websites like the Drudge Report to be “regulated,” and blamed hostile responses towards her proposals on “misogyny.” She claimed it was within the purview of the Federal Election Commission to oversee internet political activities, including the airing of political viewpoints.

In 2015, the Democrats tried, but failed to expand the FEC’s regulatory powers to cover social media posts and other forms of political speech on the Internet, which are not subject to the same scrutiny as political advertisements on old media. At the time, liberal watchdogs complained to the FEC with allegations that (then-probable) presidential candidates like Jeb Bush and Martin O’Malley were skirting finance laws to campaign. Conservatives managed to stall the vote, fearing that the additional powers would chill political speech on the Internet.

Since then, Revel has only doubled down. In her speech at UC Berkeley, Revel claimed that companies like Facebook have “no real knowledge” of who sponsors the posts of political viewpoints on their platforms.

“I think this is a really serious issue that we need to address,” she said.

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.

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