Rules Set To Tighten for TX Social Media Influencers

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Man holding iPhone | Image by Gabo_Arts/Shutterstock

In an effort to boost transparency in the realm of political advertising on social media, the Texas Ethics Commission has taken decisive steps to require social media influencers to disclose when they are paid to post political content.

This move follows growing concerns over the apparent lack of transparency surrounding paid political advertising on platforms like X, Facebook, and Instagram. According to a study by the Pew Research Center in late 2019, “18% of U.S. adults say they turn most to social media for political and election news.”

The newly proposed rule aims to close a loophole in current campaign ethics laws that allow individuals to post political content without disclosure if they haven’t made significant expenditures for political advertising.

Under the proposed amendment to the Chapter 26.1 Disclosure Statement of the Commission Rules per the Texas Ethics Commission, individuals who are compensated for posting political messages will be required to disclose this information, reported The Texan.

Member of General Counsel for the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC), James Tinley, said during a March 20 TEC meeting posted by The Texas Voice, “This gets at the idea of a candidate or organization paying individuals to post political advertising. There, you’d have to have the political advertising disclosing statement stating who actually paid for that political advertising.”

Tinley highlighted the necessity of transparency in political discourse, especially in an era where social media plays an increasingly significant role in shaping public opinion.

The catalyst for this rule change is likely related to the emergence of firms that have capitalized on the lack of regulation surrounding paid political advertising on social media platforms, as previously reported by The Texas Voice.

Though not explicitly mentioned during discussions on the proposed rule, Influenceable made headlines last year for paying social media influencers to post content supporting specific candidates and issues without disclosing these financial ties.

In a screenshot posted by Tony Ortiz from Current Revolt, Influenceable sent out a chain text message offering $50 for a single original X post on a political issue.

The TEC’s decision to mandate disclosure for paid political advertising mirrors regulations already in place by the Federal Trade Commission for the commercial private sector.

The TEC board unanimously approved the proposed rule on March 20. The amendment will now enter a 30-day public comment period before going into effect. This period offers an opportunity for stakeholders and members of the public to provide feedback on the proposed changes.

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