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Franking Facebook?

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, May 2 2011

Facebook's ads might not be targeted enough to satisfy congressional franking regulations as they stand today, reports Roll Call's Daniel Newhauser:

Franking statutes forbid House Members from using official resources to send mass mailings outside of their district. But Facebook’s advertising platform is too imprecise to prove with certainty that only a Member’s constituents would receive an ad placed on the social network. ...

The law and court ruling were both written before the Internet became ubiquitous and neither specifically addresses online ads. The Member’s franking handbook, which lays out the dos and don’ts of franking, categorizes online ads on par with newspaper and radio advertising, which have less stringent regulations concerning who views the material.

“Members are authorized to purchase only advertisements ... on webpages that serve the Member’s district,” the handbook states.

If you're talking about a single-district place like sparsely populated South Dakota, the issue might not come up. But things get more complicated, writes Newhauser, in sardine-like places like Brooklyn:

Rep. Anthony Weiner, for example, can target ads to Facebook users who live in Brooklyn and like his Facebook profile. But it’s still imprecise to the point where the New Yorker could ensnare constituents of fellow Brooklyn-based Democratic Reps. Jerrold Nadler or Edolphus Towns.

The Committee on House Administration says that they're looking into it.

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