EU proposes new rules for political ads on social media

Draft legislation would require labeling political ads, revealing sponsors and target audience for social media campaigns

2021-11-25 15:24:45


The European Commission on Thursday proposed new rules on political ads and transparency, demanding that tech companies reveal the sponsor and amount spent on campaigns, as well as online targeting criteria.

The measures are meant to boost the transparency of political ads in order to protect democracy and the privacy of EU citizens.

The proposed regulation would require clear labelling of political ads and showing who sponsored the campaign, how much they paid for it, and from which funds.

Online ads on Facebook and other platforms, including many funded by the Russian government, have drawn criticism for alleged stealth disinformation meant to stoke tensions and sway voters.

The commission draft would set rules for all types of political ads, but its main focus is on tech giants and social media campaigns since it would impose strict transparency conditions on targeted online campaigns.

The legislation would ban targeting and boosting techniques for political ads based on sensitive data such as ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion without the clear consent of the user.

It would also require targeted ads to feature the criteria upon which the audience was chosen and to tell which other groups were targeted.

“Elections must not be a competition of opaque and non-transparent methods. People must know why they are seeing an ad, who paid for it, how much, what micro-targeting criteria were used,” said Vera Jourova, EU commissioner for values and transparency.

If they fail to comply, the European Commission would be mandated to fine the tech companies and ad platforms involved.

The proposal has yet to be adopted by the European Parliament or the Council of the EU representing EU member states.