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Elections & Democracy, Privacy & Data

CDT Comments to the FEC on REG 2011-02 — Internet Communications Disclaimers

Dear Mr. Stopanovic:

The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) respectfully submits these comments in response to the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) request for comment on two alternative proposals to amend its regulations concerning disclaimers on public communications on the Internet.

CDT has highlighted challenges with regulating online political activity in previous comments to the Commission. We have cautioned against imposing complicated and burdensome disclosure requirements on ordinary Internet users, but if the Commission intends to pursue new rules about Internet communications disclaimers, standardized and easily accessible mechanisms to help signal the political nature of an advertisement can, at minimum, advance public transparency. Both proposals put forward by the FEC are not explicit on this point. CDT’s comments focus specifically on the definitions of “indicators” and “technological mechanisms” in both proposals, and CDT requests the opportunity to testify further about technical and policy developments in online advertising disclosures.

As the FEC evaluates the feasibility of both alternative proposals, CDT recommends that the FEC should (1) be mindful of the potential lessons learned from creating disclosures around online behavioral advertising and (2) prioritize machine-readability for any advertising disclosures mandated by the FEC. Both recommendations will help the FEC advance the interests in transparency for both individual internet users and the public.