Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic commissioner on the Federal Election Commission, is calling on the independent government agency to address Internet communication disclaimers at an open meeting next week, following the revelation that Facebook sold ads to Russian-linked accounts during the 2016 campaign.
"It is imperative that we update the Federal Election Commission's regulations to ensure that the American people know who is paying for the internet political communications they see," Weintraub said in a letter Thursday to the chairman of the FEC, Steven Walther.
"Given the revelations of the past few days regarding the secret purchase of thousands of internet political ads by foreign actors during the 2016 presidential election, there can no longer reasonably be any doubt that we need to revise and modernize our internet disclaimer regulations," Weintraub added. "The need for us to act grows more compelling every day."
Weintraub said she would invite leaders and experts from technology companies including Facebook, Twitter, and Google to attend the meeting and to assist the FEC in determining the best Internet disclaimer rules moving forward.
Weintraub's letter was prompted by Facebook revealing Wednesday that counterfeit accounts connected to Russia purchased $100,000 in ads during the 2016 presidential election.
Alex Stamos, Facebook's chief security officer, released a blog post Wednesday that stated Facebook looked into the ads to check if there was any connection between Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 election and the Facebook ads.
"We know we have to stay vigilant to keep ahead of people who try to misuse our platform," Stamos said in his blog post. "We believe in protecting the integrity of civic discourse, and require advertisers on our platform to follow both our policies and all applicable laws. We also care deeply about the authenticity of the connections people make on our platform."
Facebook stated it did not find any relation between the ads and a specific presidential campaign. Instead, the ads appeared to be have a national focus.
Facebook suspended 470 accounts associated with the ads because they failed to meet authenticity requirements.
It is unclear whether Russia broke election laws by purchasing the ads. It ultimately will depend on the content of the ads and whether a U.S. campaign assisted placing these ads.
"There's a lot of uncertainty," Richard Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California at Irvine told the Washington Post. "If they had ads that just were making statements about immigration and gay marriage and there was no mention of a candidate," they would not meet the FEC's definition of an independent expenditure, he said.
Facebook released its findings Wednesday to Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the federal investigation of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Additionally, Facebook also informed several House and Senate intelligence committees about their findings. The committees are currently investigating whether there was any collusion with Russia during the 2016 election.