Former FEC Chair Calls for Government Agency to Collect Social Media

Former FEC Chair Calls for Government Agency to Collect Social Media
Ann Ravel, the former Democratic chair of the Federal Election Commission who controversially pushed to regulate the internet during her time leading the commission, is now suggesting a new government enforcement agency be established to help tech companies discover questionable communications from social media sites in an effort to find alleged disinformation campaigns.

Ravel made the suggestions in a recent Atlantic essay titled "How the Government Could Fix Facebook," which featured insights from a number of experts and suggestions such as imposing fines for data breaches, making tech companies liable for objectionable content, and installing ethics review boards.

Under a section titled "Police Political Advertising" within the piece, the former chair told the publication that the definition of ‘election advertising' should be expanded to help detect new disinformation campaigns that may not be found under the current definition. This could be established if the FEC were to create a "multifaceted test" to help determine if certain additional communications should fall under the category of election-related materials, Ravel said.

Ravel added that if the definition were to be expanded, a new government enforcement agency could be created to help the tech companies find questionable communications, which would also help the FEC.

"For instance, communications could be examined for their intent, and whether they were paid for in a nontraditional way—such as through an automated bot network," The Atlantic writes of Ravel's idea.

The agency could mirror that of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which falls under the Treasury Department and tracks financial activities flagged by large institutions, Ravel said. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has been criticized in the past for allegedly targeting small businesses while letting figures such as former Democratic New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer off the hook.