EU to Limit Political Advertisements Online; Facebook, Google to Face Fine if They Don’t Comply


Concerned over the misuse of political ads to undermine elections, the European Union on Thursday unveiled plans to help people understand when they see such ads online and who is responsible for them.

Proposals, aimed at ensuring fair and transparent elections or referendums, would also ban political targeting and the use of “amplification techniques” to reach a wider audience if they were of ethnic origin, religious belief or use sensitive personal data such as sexual orientation.

“Digital advertising for political purposes is becoming an uncontrolled race of dirty and opaque methods,” said European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova. “A myriad of data analytics and communications firms work with our data on a daily basis to figure out the best way to convince us to buy something or to persuade someone to vote or not to vote.”

She said that people should “know why they are viewing an ad, who paid for it, how much, micro-targeting criteria used. New technologies should be tools for liberation, not manipulation.”

The Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, hopes that the 27 member states and the European Parliament will debate and support proposals in national legislation by 2023, with Europe-wide elections next year.

companies like Facebook And GoogleTwo major players in the digital advertising industry will face fines if they fail to comply.

Facebook, which has faced heavy criticism for its lack of transparency in political ads, welcomed the move.

“We have long called The European Union-wider regulation on political advertising and are pleased that the commission’s proposal addresses some of the more difficult questions, particularly when it comes to cross-border advertising,” the company, which recently renamed Meta, told a press conference. said in the statement.

google said blog post That it supported the proposals and recommended the Commission to clearly define political advertisements and clarify the responsibilities for tech platforms and advertisers, while keeping the rules flexible.

Twitter, which banned all political advertising in 2019, said it believed “political reach should be earned, not bought” and noted that it removed micro-targeting from other types of ads such as cause-based ads. have also been banned and removed.

Under the EU plan, political advertisements would have to be clearly labeled, and the sponsor’s name displayed prominently, with a transparency notice explaining how much the advertisement would cost and who to pay for it. Where did the money come from? The content must be directly related to the vote or poll concerned.

Information should be available about the basis on which an individual, or group of people, is being targeted by the ad, and what kind of amplification tools are being used to help the sponsor reach a wider audience . Ads will be banned if such criteria cannot be met.

Jourova told reporters that “the sensitive data that people decide to share with friends on social media cannot be used to target them for political purposes.” She added that “either companies like Facebook can publicly say who they are targeting, why and how or they won’t be able to.”

The system will be polished by data protection authorities in each of the EU member states. National authorities would be required to impose “effective, proportionate and regressive fines” for breaking the rules.