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Senators urge Google, Twitter to be transparent about political ads

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg supports the proposed Honest Ads Act. Sens. Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar want the company's rivals to back it too.

Google's Larry Page

Two US senators are urging Alphabet CEO Larry Page to support transparency about political ads. 

James Martin/CNET

Facebook last week said it would support efforts to regulate political ads. Now US senators are urging Alphabet and Twitter to do the same.

The Honest Ads Act is a senate bill that would require tech companies to disclose how political ads were targeted and how much they cost. It's sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, and Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia. The act was drafted in response to Russian trolls abusing Facebook and other online platforms to sow discord among Americans during the 2016 US presidential election. 

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The two senators, in letters Monday to Alphabet, Google's parent company, and Twitter, urged those companies to also be more transparent and accountable when it comes to political ads. They want Alphabet and Twitter to implement the provisions in the Honest Ads Act, which would require online political advertisements to follow the same disclosure rules as television and radio ads. 

"This lack of transparency has dangerous implications for our democracy," Warner and Klobuchar wrote in their letters to Alphabet CEO Larry Page and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. "As we saw in the 2016 presidential election, foreign actors can seek to influence the electorate without voters' knowledge through online political advertising."

Alphabet and Twitter didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday -- ahead of this week's testimony before Congress -- said he supports political advertising regulation.

"Election interference is a problem that's bigger than any one platform, and that's why we support the Honest Ads Act," Zuckerberg said Friday in a Facebook post. "This will help raise the bar for all political advertising online."

The announcement came ahead of Zuckerberg's scheduled testimony at Congressional hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday. During those meetings, he's also expected to discuss online privacy and data protection. Facebook has been in hot water over its user data policies in the wake of a controversy involving Cambridge Analytica. The data consultancy, which had ties to the Trump presidential campaign, harvested data on up to 87 million Facebook users without their permission. 

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