Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed the New York State Democracy Protection Act, the strongest and most comprehensive legislation in the nation, to ensure transparency in all political advertising and to protect New York elections from foreign influence.
“The election meddling this nation experienced in the 2016 presidential election was inconceivable, unacceptable and undermined the very values our democracy stands for,” Governor Cuomo said. “New York is the first state in the nation to take action to put an end to foreign influence in our elections, and by signing this legislation, we will bring transparency to all online political ads including those on social media, and restore fairness and honesty to the electoral process for generations to come.”
“As someone who has been elected to every level of government, I know how important it is to protect the integrity of the electoral process,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “The transparency required for online political advertising should be no different than that required for traditional print or electronic political ads. That is why I’m proud that New York is the first State to have comprehensive accountability of political advertising, the Democracy Protection Act is a model for the nation.”
In the 2016 presidential election, social media demonstrated its widespread use as a platform for placing and viewing political advertisements, in addition to traditional television, print, and radio outlets. For example, as many as 126 million Americans are estimated to have seen Russian-bought political ads on Facebook last year alone, without realizing that they were seeing content paid for by Russia. Additionally, 131,000 Twitter messages have also been identified and linked to more than 36,000 Russian accounts.
According to Pew Research Institute, 69 percent of Americans across all age groups use some type of social media, proving that now more than ever it is critical that the regulation of advertisements on social media is addressed. Political advertisements on social media platforms are not currently regulated in the United States the same way as advertisements on traditional media platforms, which has created new opportunities for disruptive and deceitful actors to wrongly influence the political process.
New York Becomes First State in the Nation to Increase Transparency of Online Political Ads and Protect Against Outside Election Influence
All political advertising in newspapers, and on television and radio in New York State are required to disclose the organization or individual paying for that ad. Current law does not yet apply to political ads online or on social media.
Signed into law today by Governor Cuomo, the New York State Democracy Protection Act amends the definition of “political communication” to include paid Internet and digital advertisements. The legislation:
- Ensures foreign entities are prohibited from forming an independent expenditure committee and purchasing political ads in order to influence New York elections;
- Requires all digital ad buyers to register as an independent expenditure committee, just as they are required to when purchasing time on television;
- Requires paid independent political online ads to clearly display that the ad was not authorized by any candidate and who actually paid for the ad; and
- Directs the State Board of Elections to create an online archive of all political communications for a set period in order to make them transparent and accessible to the press, fact-checkers, political opponents and the public.