The Federal Elections Commission is charged with protecting the integrity of democratic elections in the United States.
However, as ex-FEC member Ann Ravel writes in Politico, the agency completely dropped the ball when it came to Russia’s efforts to interfere in last year’s presidential election — and there’s little hope of things improving anytime soon.
At issue is the fact that the FEC has no tools to force social media companies such as Facebook to be transparent about who is paying for political ads on users’ pages.
‘The FEC’s antiquated policies refer to fax machines and teletypes, but barely mention modern technological phenomena like social media, YouTube and bots,” she writes. “The inadequacy of the FEC’s current regulations makes it practically impossible for both regulators and citizens to determine if the funding for a political advertisement online came from a domestic source or an enemy abroad. We had left the window wide open for foreign interference.”
Making matters worse, Ravel says that Republicans on the FEC refused — and are still refusing — to put more pressure on social media giants to disclose more information about their political advertisers.
“They blocked attempts to strengthen FEC regulations to protect the integrity of our political process when there is evidence of foreign contributions,” she explains. “This intransigence, in the face of open interference by foreign nationals, might as well have been a giant neon sign announcing to hostile actors worldwide that there would be no consequences for illegally meddling in American elections.”