Skoufis bill on internet ads is adopted in budget

A state bill sponsored by Assemblyman James Skoufis to require that political ads appearing on Facebook and other social media identify who paid for them effectively became law last month, when lawmakers passed a budget that included a disclosure requirement for internet political ads.

Skoufis, a Woodbury Democrat, took up the legislation by Sen. Todd Kaminsky of Long Island after having been attacked repeatedly by anonymous ads leveling false claims against him on Facebook and Instagram. He said at a press conference last June that at least 35 different messages smearing him had run in a constant barrage for the last 18 months, each attributed to a made-up organization. The bill he sponsored would require a “paid for by” line on all political ads, including those on the internet.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo later took up the same crusade, which is also being waged at the federal level in Congress. As a result, the budget that New York lawmakers passed on March 30 included a requirement that internet ads identify the independent expenditure committees that paid for them. It also requires the state Board of Elections to keep a publicly accessible database of digital ads bought by independent committees.

“Voters deserve to know who’s behind the digital political ads that are popping up all over their screen,” Skoufis said on Thursday in a press release about the new requirements. “As someone who’s been targeted by anonymous groups looking to spread misinformation with outright lies, I know how necessary this measure is to protecting and strengthening our democracy. If someone wants to influence our elections and attempt to shape our future, it’s only right that they take responsibility for it.”

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