Better transparency and accountability in political advertising in new EU rules

New advertising rules adopted by the European Parliament on Tuesday mean that political adverts must be clearly labelled and more transparent as the EU gears up for MEP elections and introduces more safeguards against disinformation.

Speaking about the new rules’ introduction on Tuesday, EU Rapporteur Sandro Gozi said that while the EU is “not naive and doesn’t see this as a final solution,” the new rules were “an important step to protect our personal freedoms and data.”

According to an EU Parliament statement on Tuesday, the new rules will mean authorities and journalists “will be able to easily obtain information whether they are being targeted with an ad, who is paying for it, how much is being paid, and to which elections or referendum it is linked.”

While the new rules apply to all forms of political adverts, online advertising was given particular prominence.

The new rules are intended to prevent foreign interference in EU state or union elections, a growing concern alongside the rise of disinformation in the bloc.

The regulation was initially announced in December 2020 as part of the European Commission’s Democracy Action Plan, aimed at strengthening European democracies.

Additionally, the new regulations will see the creation of an online repository for all online political advertising and related data, including who is financing an advert, its cost, and the origin of the money used.

The new rules are also expected to bring about some practical improvements too. Gozi remarked how their introduction would create “a single market for political advertising purposes in the EU,” streamlining advertising for legitimate purposes.

The extensive and targeted political advertising campaigns employed in Malta would be directly affected, with a degree of transparency and accountability now required.

The new regulations will be in place before the EU’s MEP elections in July but will apply to all advertising ahead of any election in the bloc. Gozi said they will apply “to any kind of kind of election, municipal, regional, national, presidential, and European.”

This is “a very important step for the protection of our democracies and the increase of transparency in the European political space,” he concluded.

                           

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