First Amendment: Court blocks Maryland political ad transparency

The Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that a Maryland campaign finance law requiring newspapers and online platforms to disclose the identity of political ad buyers and the cost of the ads ran afoul of the First Amendment. While sympathetic to the state’s attempt to bring transparency to the world of tech and elections, the court felt it had overstepped. (The Baltimore Sun, December 9, 2019, by Jeff Barker)

Newspapers argued that the law chilled political speech in requiring them to publish information about the buyers of political ads. The government should not be dictating what content the media should publish. They also said that foreign interference in the 2016 election stemmed from free postings on social media, not paid political ads. (This is MONEY, December 6, 2019, by The Associated Press)

The Federal Election Commission chair Ellen L. Weintraub, The Washington Post, November 1, 2019, suggested that rather than blocking political ads on social media, it would be better to prevent advertisers from microtargeting the ads. Forcing the ads into larger markets would allow the public to see the ads and hold the advertisers accountable for any fake news.

For related FAC coverage, click here, here and here.