The L@B Report – May 2024

May 8, 2024

Welcome to The L@B Report

Welcome to this month’s issue of The L@B Report from GSG, bringing you news and insights from the intersection of digital media and public affairs. In this issue, we explore a new law that will force the sale of TikTok, the 2024 M&R Benchmarks Study, and a report on Big Tech’s ad transparency tools.

President Biden Signs Legislation Forcing TikTok’s Parent Company to Divest from U.S. Operations or Face Nationwide Ban

New law gives ByteDance nine months to arrange a sale

In April, the House and Senate passed bipartisan legislation that President Biden signed into law forcing China-based ByteDance to sell TikTok within nine months or face a ban in the United States.  

TikTok’s critics have long argued that the popular app, with over 170 million users in the United States, puts U.S. user data at risk because Chinese law requires Chinese companies to share information with the government.  

TikTok CEO Shou Chew has vowed that the social media platform will challenge the law in court on First Amendment grounds.


The L@B Report previously reported on how TikTok activated its user base to lobby Congress, flooding members’ offices with calls. The activation angered members of Congress and likely backfired when the initial legislation passed out of committee 50-0. This a clear example of a grassroots activation that went too far – as it was launched at such a scale that it shut down congressional offices. 

What’s interesting now that the legislation has been signed into law, is that many members of Congress who voted for the ban, are still active users on TikTok. President Biden’s re-election campaign, which launched an official TikTok account just a few months ago on Super Bowl Sunday, still plans to use the app. The reluctance to give up the app, despite widespread support for the legislation, shows that TikTok remains a powerful tool in reaching voters and constituents – especially younger ones – up until the ticking nine-month clock.

M&R Releases 2024 Benchmarks Study

More than 225 nonprofits joined the study, which reports on a wealth of metrics around digital media and grassroots fundraising

Each year, M&R Strategic Services works with nonprofit partners to release an annual benchmarks study on digital media and grassroots fundraising. Some of the 2024 highlights:  

  • Total advertising investment — including both digital and non-digital channels — increased by 13%. While search remains the most used platform, nonprofits are experimenting with connected TV, digital audio, and other emerging channels.
  • About a quarter of nonprofits had active peer-to-peer mobile messaging programs in 2023, driving event attendance, recruiting volunteers, and generating donations and advocacy actions.
  • Nonprofits more than doubled TikTok audiences in 2023, while X fans declined. About half of M+R Benchmarks participants reported working with social media influencers in 2023. 
  • Email accounted for 16% of all online fundraising — but while audiences grew, individual email metrics declined across the board.


While the M&R Benchmarks Study is focused on nonprofits, it does have important lessons and insights for public affairs and marketing professionals.  

For example, if the consensus amongst 225 nonprofits is that email is becoming a more challenging environment for grassroots advocacy and fundraising, then it may also be challenging for public affairs and issue advocacy campaigns. Likewise, if nonprofits are making larger investments in digital advertising, that’s another signal that public affairs campaigns should likely be making greater and more diverse investments there to reach key audiences.  

And as the name implies, the report also provides useful benchmarks. For instance, if you need to answer a question like, “what’s a good response rate for an advocacy email?” thanks to the M&R Benchmarks Study you can safely answer “1.4%”.

Report Finds Big Tech’s Ad Reporting and Transparency Tools Don’t Measure Up

X is the worst offender

A newly released report from the Mozilla Foundation finds that Big Tech’s ad transparency tools fail when it comes to providing meaningful data that can help users, journalists, and advocates keep a watchful eye on scams and disinformation.  

The report analyzed ad transparency tools created by tech platforms to aid advertising monitors, including those on XTikTokLinkedInGoogleMeta, and others. Using guidelines from the European Union’s 2023 Digital Services Act (DSA) and Mozilla’s in-house ad library guidelines, Mozilla scanned the platforms’ ad repositories for things like public availability, the contents of advertisements, payer details, and user targeting details. 

None of the advertising transparency centers performed well in the study – but X stood out as an “utter disappointment” because it only provides watchdogs with a single excel file.


While the report found that none of the ad transparency centers performed well, it wasn’t that long ago when digital advertising was a complete black hole.  

Most ad transparency centers, like Meta’s ad library, came about because of allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 elections and changing ad transparency laws. Meta’s transparency tool, the Meta Ad Library, launched only 5 years ago.  

X also just started to report advertising, in part because until Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, the platform did not accept political advertising. While the CSV file is disappointing, one must hope that even X will launch something more comprehensive and robust in the coming months. 

Public affairs professionals and marketers should continue to not only monitor Big Tech’s advertising transparency centers for insights into how competitors are advertising and spending online but also watch for developments that continue to make discovery of their own ads and spending more accessible and easier to find. 

GSG’s latest report on Artificial Intelligence unpacks heightened public skepticism toward the technology. As we head into the AI era, there is an appetite for increased government regulation. The report also sheds light on conversations taking shape in the workplace. It’s clear that transparent engagement with policymakers, employees, and consumers alike is critical to navigating the AI conversation. 

Read all the key findings here. 

This issue of The L@B Report was put together by Ryan Alexander.

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