The problem of disinformation in online political advertising is growing, with ongoing and potential threats to campaigns coming from both within and outside the United States. Most scholarship in this area has focused on either disclosures and disclaimers under the proposed Honest Ads Act or other fixes aimed at a gridlocked Federal Election Commission (“FEC”). With federal reform at a standstill, states have jumped into the void. Between the 2016 presidential election and early 2020, eight states passed legislation to expressly regulate online political advertising for state candidates and ballot measures, including Maryland, whose state law was declared unconstitutional as applied to a group of media plaintiffs by a federal appellate court. This Article examines these state laws as well as the one federal appellate court opinion as a springboard for thinking about efforts at the national level to address the problem. We raise important considerations for future legislation in light of the appellate court decision. We propose that a law establishing independent record-keeping bodies, similar to those the state of New York has established for independent expenditure committees, is more likely to pass First Amendment scrutiny than a law requiring record-keeping of platforms or websites.
Victoria S. Ekstrand & Ashley Fox,
REGULATING THE POLITICAL WILD WEST: STATE EFFORTS TO DISCLOSE SOURCES OF ONLINE POLITICAL ADVERTISING,
Available at: https://scholarship.law.nd.edu/jleg/vol47/iss1/3