Donald Trump's use of Twitter, many say, has changed "the game" in the media. While that is still debatable, social media has certainly played a bigger part in political movements. Most recently, Facebook has been drawing a lot of fire over reports that the company sold ads to Russian entities and their refusal to turn any of that information over to investigators. This, following months of the social media company denying that Russians ever bought ads through them. that was, until they acknowledged it on September 6.

Social media immune from federal election law

The denials, the fact that foreign payment was accepted to influence the 2016 presidential election and that Facebook executives initially refused to turn that evidence over by citing their confidentiality policy, should certainly add up to some form of contempt, right? The investigation on whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials to interfere in the election is reportedly looking for proof of intent. Many reports have pointed out that a foreign entity's influence (whether financial or not) is illegal under federal election law.

It could especially lead to getting Facebook in trouble as individuals and entities in the U.S. accepting payment or even their involvement is also considered illegal.

However, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) is said to have suggested during a national security conference on the Thursday that followed Facebook's acknowledgement that there are no laws to regulate social media in the same way as with other organizations.

How federal election law applies to social media

In one article by Bloomberg titled: "GOP Senator Seeks Facebook ‘Full Accounting’ on Russia Ad Money", its author says, straight out, that social media companies are not restricted by the same regulations for political ads like broadcasters are.

Another article -- this one by the Washington Post titled: "Did Facebook ads traced to a Russian company violate U.S. election law?" -- referred to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) having updated their regulations for the internet in 2006. The updates apply the law to paid advertisements from outside groups placed on another person's website.

The article also pointed out that if someone was creating their own ads for free and putting them on Facebook and Twitter, the FEC law does not apply. The special prosecutor who is investigating the Trump administration for colluding with Russian officials now reportedly have those Russian Facebook ads. They will be able to see if there was intent or wording that sided with or went against a candidate. This would in fact take the focus off of the social media company but, there is also the fact that Facebook technicians had to coordinate with those account holders.

The ads were reportedly bought and made by fake accounts that promoted fake news articles in order to influence public opinion so that they would not appear to have directly advocated the defeat of Hillary Clinton.

It's likely that Facebook will be off the hook for this. But if a U.S. campaign such as Donald Trump's assisted with ad placement, then it would be those in the Trump campaign who would be held responsible. Congressional committees have expressed interest in questioning social media executives.

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