Maryland Legislature Working for Fairer Elections, Despite Hogan Veto

Maryland is currently working to fight foreign interference in the state’s elections through political advertisements on social media platforms, such as Facebook. Although the bill is supported by Facebook’s vice president of state and local policy, Will Castleberry, Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan refused to the sign the bill. The state’s governor claims that the bill threatened the First Amendment. Nonetheless, the bill will become law even without Hogan’s signature.

The bill directly targets the political advertisements that appear on Marylander’s social media platforms. The bill demonstrates Maryland leading the way for fairer elections as it allows the Maryland State Board of Election to explore these advertisements. Although it is one of the first of its kind, Maryland appears to be following New York in this action. New York recently enacted legislation that supports transparency to political advertisements on social media platforms. However, unlike Maryland, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo demonstrated his support for fairer elections and signed this legislation into law.

Earlier this year, Hogan claimed that he supported the investigation into political advertisements on social media platforms. This came in April when Maryland passed a bill that targeted the occurrence of the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. However, now Hogan doesn’t appear to support such legislature. The governor claims that he can not show support for this recent legislature due to its effort to have new-media websites publicize their ad purchases. Hogan also claimed that part of the reason he made his decision not to sign the bill was due to the state’s daily newspapers that requested him to veto it.

The bill does require transparency regarding news-media websites and their ad purchases. In fact, the platform will only have 48 hours to create a public database that shows their ad purchasers after a purchase. Although Hogan doesn’t support the bill, Montgomery Country Democrat Senator Craig Zucker voiced his support for the legislation. Zucker noted that the bill was more of an extension of current disclose rules to new media platforms.

The law will apply to platforms that have a total reach of over 500 people. This is notable because similar legislation is being discussed by Congress. However, Congress is looking at only monitoring news platforms that have a minimum of 50 million monthly visitors. Thus, Maryland’s legislation will have a much stronger impact on the state’s election in preventing any negative interference of digital advertisements on social media platforms. The bill will also ban foreign currencies for advertisement purchases in regarding the state’s elections. In addition, the Maryland State Board of Elections will be able to remove ads from the regulated platforms that were purchased by foreign powers.

Although Hogan is showing support for the First Amendment now, he and his Facebook page became the center of an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland lawsuit just a couple months ago. ACLU sued Maryland’s governor for blocking users from his public Facebook page. The organization claimed that Hogan went against the first amendment by censoring the users’, who opposed or questions Hogan’s actions, right to free speech. The lawsuit later reached a settlement. However, now Hogan is using the First Amendment to his benefit while not signing the bill that will still become law starting in July.