David Axelrod Discusses Political Ads and Social Media

Last November, we sat down with leading voices in media to discuss the issue of social media regulation surrounding advertising and  so-called fake news distributed on social networks.  Our conversation with David Axelrod is the first in a series.  

Count Axelrod among those who think some regulation of social media is warranted.  The former senior advisor to Barack Obama told us in an interview he believes political ads are one area that could be addressed if regulators were to create rules around targeting users on Facebook and other platforms.

“I think, for example, demanding that you have the same rules governing political advertising that are digital as you do governing television and radio makes a lot of sense,” he says.

Questions about Facebook ads and social media privacy came up long before the controversy around Facebook user data. We covered a panel on the subject in November 2017. But as the issue gets more attention, Congress and regulators are getting more involved, and the question may be when, not if, social media is regulated. A bill called The Honest Ads Act introduced in the U.S. Senate addresses the points Axelrod makes. It aims to create more transparency around political social media advertising.

In remarks at last year’s Global Financial Leadership Conference, Axelrod expanded on the point, noting how in the current media landscape, news and opinion is often spread only among like-minded communities.

“The modern news constellation — cable news, the internet, social media — has created an opportunity for us to form these kind of virtual reality communities, and in these communities we draw on news sources that affirm rather than inform our points of view. Everything outside the walls of this virtual reality community is dismissed.”

Evan Peterson is director of corporate marketing at CME Group and managing editor of OpenMarkets.

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