Governor Cuomo Signs Democracy Protection Act at YU

By: Ailin Elyasi  |  May 8, 2018

YU’s Cardozo School of Law had the honor of inviting Governor Cuomo to sign New York State’s Democracy Protection Act into law on April 18th. Cardozo Dean Melanie Leslie, President Ari Berman, and famous first amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams looked on as the New York became the first state to pass legislation that brings accountability and transparency to political ads on all social media platforms.

The Democracy Protection Act has become necessary due to the increased foreign involvement in the 2016 presidential election, especially on social media. With 69% of Americans using some sort of social media, facebook and twitter have become influential information sharing sites capable of shaping political opinions, even though they do not have the same transparency and oversight as traditional print and digital ads. For instance, 126 million Americans are estimated to have seen Russian sponsored Facebook ads, and over 131,000 political tweets were linked to Russian accounts around the time of the 2016 election.

The act intends on prohibiting foreign involvement in New York elections by requiring all digital ad buyers to register as independent expenditure committees, as they would when purchasing TV time and other traditional ads. The act also requires that ads clearly disclose when they are not authorized by any candidate and clearly state who paid for the ad. There is also a $1,000 fine to any TV or Radio station that fails to comply with the new regulations.

“The election meddling this nation experienced in the 2016 presidential election was inconceivable, unacceptable and undermined the very values our democracy stands for,” said Governor Cuomo during the signing. “New York is the first state in the nation to take action to put an end to foreign influence in our elections, and by signing this legislation, we will bring transparency to all online political ads including those on social media, and restore fairness and honesty to the electoral process for generations to come.”

President Ari Berman spoke of the values that Cardozo represents, saying “I am particularly proud to welcome you to the Cardozo School of Law, the school which exemplifies our core values from caring for the vulnerable, to safeguarding essential rights, to wrestling actively with the cutting edge innovation that will transform our future. I can think of no better host for this historic occasion.”

Director of YU Governmental Affairs Jon Greenfield said “We are grateful to Governor Cuomo for including Yeshiva University as host to this historic event. Our Cardozo Law School has a proud tradition of graduating the elected leaders and legal minds that help shape landmark policies like the Governor’s Democracy Protection Act. The Governor’s visit to campus strengthens students’ understanding of this critical relationship and furthers the great partnership between YU and the state.”