Most political ads running on YouTube, sent via e-mail or otherwise distributed on the Internet must now disclose their funding sources in much the same way as traditional print and television ads, according to new rules approved Friday by the Fair Political Practices Commission.
The FPPC has been wrestling for months with how to regulate advertising on the Internet, where the lines between ads and opinion content are blurry and the space limitations of some ad formats, such as Google AdWords, make disclosure more difficult.
As they do with traditional advertising, the new rules require ads to disclose the candidate committee that paid for it, or in the case of independent expenditure or ballot measure committees, the top two funders of $50,000 or more who gave money to the committee.
They apply broadly to text and graphic ads (like the Whitman for Governor ads that routinely swarmed any news story about Meg Whitman), audio and video ads, and ads sent via text messages and micromessaging services like Twitter. In cases where space limits make it impossible to cram in all the relevant donor information, the rules lay out several alternatives, such as using various shorthand methods of disclosure.
The nitty-gritty can be found here [PDF].
Opponents of the regulations had raised concerns that due to the thin lines separating paid campaigning from volunteer work or opinion-writing on the Internet, average Joes would risk running afoul of state regulations for, say, e-mailing a political YouTube video to their friends.