The Federal Election Commission has shifted from regulating Facebook, Twitter and even websites like the Drudge Report to how they are delivered on small devices including wearable devices such as apps, cellphones, iWatches and Kindles.
The agency Tuesday started a comment period for the public and special interests to suggest ideas on how to regulate internet-based political ads and paid comments that come over those small devices via big websites.
"The Commission is particularly interested in comments addressing advertisements on internet-enabled applications and devices such as apps, eReaders, and wearable technology," said the agency.
It is open to requiring that paid ads and comments that come over small devices carry a disclaimer and note of who paid.
The agency is working under an old rule that omits a disclaimer requirement on small items like buttons and bumper stickers.
With political campaigns turning more and more to the internet, and with new concerns that foreign governments and groups, notably in Russia, have used Facebook and Twitter to influence the election, the FEC is taking steps to consider regulating the internet and the delivery devices.
It is an effort championed by Democratic commissioner Ellen Weintraub and welcomed by Republican Matthew Petersen. At the FEC's last meeting, Petersen said, "I think getting a sense where the current state of technology is would be helpful for allowing us to know whether or not technology has now advanced to a point where the small items exception is no longer necessary because it's simple enough for the characters to be put on the advertisement, to put on the necessary disclaimer or whether or not there still are limitations or there are so many distinctions between different platforms and different phone providers, tablet providers, that it would be very difficult to have a one size fits all rule."
In a recent interview, fellow Republican Commissioner Lee Goodman raised questions about how a disclaimer could fit -- and be readable -- on tiny ads, like those on an Apple Watch.
One possible option noted in the FEC announcement would be for the disclaimer to pop up when something in the ad or comment was rolled over, like with a mouse.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org