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News Posted on September 29, 2017

Professor Elmendorf Publishes Op-ed on Facebook Political Advertising

Professor Christopher S. Elmendorf published an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle concerning political advertisements on Facebook and similar online platforms. The article, co-authored with Ann Ravel, former chair of the Federal Election Commission and the California Fair Political Practices Commission, and Abby Wood, Associate Professor of Law, Political Science, and Public Policy at the USC School of Law, points out problems with micro-targeted political ads on social media and urges San Francisco to pass laws to “open the black box of online politics.”

Micro-targeted political advertisements, which are designed to be seen by only members of a specific demographic, are problematic in part because they often carry messages that are likely to exacerbate political polarization and erode broadly shared norms against hateful ideologies. In addition, they are usually invisible to those who would challenge hateful or misleading statements. Professor Elmendorf and his co-authors write that in order to combat this, political advertisements on Facebook and similar platforms need to be archived for a reasonable length of time, along with information disclosing who funded the advertising and whom it targeted, so that online political advertisers can be held accountable in the same way that print and broadcast advertisers are.

Christopher S. Elmendorf is a Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law whose teaching and research interests include election law, administrative law, statutory interpretation, constitutional law, and property and natural resources law.