New California Law Asks Paid Websites, Social Media Users to Disclose Campaign Contributions, Spending

New California Law Asks Paid Websites, Social Media Users to Disclose Campaign Contributions, Spending

Researcher Andre Souza works in Facebook's "War Room," which is focused on misinformation, during a media demonstration in Menlo Park, Calif., on October 17, 2018. (Noah Berger/AFP via Getty Images)

Travis Gillmore
Travis Gillmore

9/12/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

0

A bill requiring a disclaimer on the internet and apps, such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and X—formerly known as Twitter—by paid spokespersons, social media influencers, or organizations involving candidates in the election process passed the Legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 1.
“I want to thank Governor Newsom, the [Fair Political Practices Commission], and my legislative colleagues for recognizing the need to embrace campaign transparency with internet content,” Sen. Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana), the bill’s author, said in a statement emailed to The Epoch Times Sept. 9. “Californians deserve transparency in our elections process in all forms: print, television, and digitally.”
Senate Bill 678 expands the Political Reform Act of 1974—a voter-approved measure requiring disclosure of campaign contributions and spending—and intends to expand transparency in the electoral process by adding newer forms of communication including websites, social media platforms, and apps.
Any individual paid by a committee that posts messages of support or opposition to a candidate must include a disclaimer indicating the affiliation.
Disclaimers will allow voters engaging with the content to better understand the context and motivation of political endorsements or statements made in opposition, according to comments made by Mr. Umberg in a legislative analysis conducted by the Senate Rules Committee in June.
The absence of disclosure can mislead voters when posts are not recognized as paid content, according to Mr. Umberg.
Residents of Orange County, Calif., drop off voting ballots at the Orange County Registrar of Voters office in Santa Ana, Calif., on Nov. 8, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Residents of Orange County, Calif., drop off voting ballots at the Orange County Registrar of Voters office in Santa Ana, Calif., on Nov. 8, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The new law suggests text similar to “The author was paid by [name of committee and committee identification number] in connection with this posting.”
Such regulations apply to images, with the size and clarity of the message “readily legible to the average reader,” and audio content, which must include “clearly audible” disclaimers.
Prior law only required disclosure after the fact in campaign contribution documents, thus preventing voters from identifying affiliations before elections. The bill addresses these issues by mandating concurrent disclosure, according to political practices commission statements included in the same analysis.
Committees are required to notify paid individuals of the law mandating disclosure. The law excludes punitive measures and notes that violations are not subject to administrative, civil, or criminal penalties.
The law also offers injunctive relief—where a court orders compliance—to compel those who fail to respond after being notified of a violation.
Exceptions to the mandate exist for content posted on accounts controlled by the committee and on their landing pages or websites, as existing law already requires committees to identify their status and state identification number on such.
Groups supporting the measure include the California Clean Money Campaign, California Common Cause, the Fair Political Practices Commission—which would oversee it—and others.
“The League supports voters’ rights to know how campaigns are being financed,” the California League of Women Voters wrote in support of the bill. “Voters should know whether advocates are being paid to deliver a message so that the voter is in a better position to evaluate the credibility of the information conveyed.”
No groups were listed in opposition in the legislative analyses, and the measure made its way through the Legislature and committees with bipartisan support and without receiving any no votes.
Copy
facebooktwitterlinkedintelegram

Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.

California Insider
Sign up here for our email newsletter!
©2024 California Insider All Rights Reserved. California Insider is a part of Epoch Media Group.