In the digital age, it has become common to accuse opponents of propping up their online presence through paying influencers, buying followers or likes, or of being supported by bots. A California law new this year is looking to shed light on at least some of that activity.
The California Fair Political Practices Commission recently approved rules that tighten the reporting requirements of committees that pay to “amplify” online advertising. The change may be notable for any committee that makes or may make expenditures to digital strategy consultants for social media “likes,” shares, followers, or similar activity. The rules require committees with reportable expenditures for amplification measures to specifically describe the payments in their reporting statements.
The new regulation defines amplification as “efforts to create or increase the appearance of support or opposition for a candidate, committee, or measure online through the purchase of followers, friends, shares, follows, reposts, comments, likes, dislikes, or similar electronic registrations of approval or disapproval” that are visible to users of a digital platform or Internet site. Under the new rules, committees must provide information about the type of amplification it bought, as well as a “detailed description” of the number of shares, follows, reposts, comments, likes, and dislikes purchased.
Currently, California law requires a candidate or committee that makes an expenditure to pay for amplification services to report the expenditure, including a “brief description of the consideration for which each expenditure was made.” However, the disclosure must not specifically indicate that the committee paid to amplify a communication, a gap the new regulation aims to fill.