skip navigation
  • FEC Record: Advisory opinions

AO 2017-05: Committees may use Twitter handles in disclaimer notifications

September 27, 2017

Great America PAC and The Committee to Defend the President may use their Twitter handles in lieu of or alongside their full names in disclaimer notifications.

Background

Great America PAC and The Committee to Defend the President are nonconnected political committees that each maintain a publicly accessible Twitter profile. Both committees plan to make independent expenditures that would require disclaimers. Great America PAC asks if it may include its Twitter handle in a disclaimer in lieu of the committee’s actual name, while The Committee to Defend the President asks if it may satisfy the “full name” requirement by including both its full name and Twitter handle. Both committees ask if including their Twitter handles in their disclaimer will satisfy the requirement that committees include a permanent “street address, telephone number, or World Wide Web address” in their disclaimers.

Analysis

Great America PAC may use its Twitter handle in lieu of its actual name, in both written and spoken disclaimers, because the Twitter handle, which is materially identical to its name, unambiguously gives “the reader, observer, or listener adequate notice of the identity of the person or political committee that paid for the communication.” Similarly, The Committee to Defend the President may use both its full name and Twitter handle in disclaimers, as long as it is clear who is paying for the communication.

Neither committee may use its Twitter handle in its disclaimers in lieu of its permanent street address, telephone number, or World Wide Web address, even if the committee’s Twitter profile includes the address of – and a link to – its website containing the requisite information. The Federal Election Campaign Act specifically requires one of these pieces of information in a disclaimer notification for a public communication neither paid for nor authorized by a candidate or candidate’s committee. The Commission noted that a Twitter handle is materially different from a World Wide Web address. The latter includes a domain name that points a user to a specific location that a web browser could open, while the former does not refer directly to a specific web address, as it makes no reference to Twitter.com, and the @ symbol is not unique to Twitter.

Finally, both committees also asked if they may use Twitter without including a disclaimer on their Twitter profile pages. If not, they ask if they would satisfy the disclaimer requirements by ensuring that their Twitter profiles specify their names, twitter handles, and link to the web addresses of their respective homepages which contain standard disclaimers. Finally, the committees asked if they would satisfy disclaimer requirements by ensuring that their Twitter profiles contain a graphic bearing a standard disclaimer. The Commission could not approve answers to these questions by the required four affirmative votes.

Date issued: 9/20/2017; Length: 7 pages

Citations:

Statute:

52 U.S.C. § 30120
Publication and distribution of statements and solicitations

Regulations:

11 CFR 110.11
Communications; advertising; disclaimers

Resources:

  • Author 
    • Christopher Berg
    • Communications Specialist