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30th Jan 2023

MEPs push for explicit consent for online political ads

  • MEPs also proposed to ban non-EU based actors from being able to pay for political advertisements in the EU (Photo: Steinar Engeland)
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MEPs adopted a draft report on Tuesday (24 January) on potential new rules for political advertisements that lawmakers hope will come into force for the 2024 European elections.

The vote in the internal market committee follows the EU Commission's 2021 proposal to make online political advertising more transparent.

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The plenary will vote on the matter next month and MEP Sandro Gozi from the liberal Renew Europe group hopes to start negotiations with member states as soon as possible.

"We must do everything we can to be ready with this new system for the next European elections," Gozi said after the committee vote. He said the aim is to build a single market for political advertising.

MEPs want to make sure that only personal data explicitly provided for online political ads can be used by ad providers.

This could effectively ban micro-targeting which uses consumer data and demographics to identify targets.

However, that ambition has already been criticised by EU commissioner for values and transparency, Věra Jourová, who has been worried that it might impact the commercial use of the technique.

"This report will make abusive online political advertising a thing of the past by making it impossible to prey on people's specific weaknesses," Gozi added.

MEPs also want to ban the use of minors' data.

An online repository containing all online political advertisements and related data should also be created, according to the draft legislation.

MEPs also want information to be made easily available to citizens, authorities, researchers, electoral observers, and journalists.

It would also make it easier to find out who is financing an ad, how much was paid for it, where the money came from, on who were targeted by the ad using what data, and levels of engagement.

MEPs also proposed to ban non-EU based actors from being able to pay for political advertisements in the EU.

Member states would be able to fine platforms for repeated violations of the regulation.

In serious or systemic cases, the European Data Protection Board would have the power to order large online platforms to suspend the delivery of ads for up to 15 days.

"Once in force, we hope by 2023, elections in the EU will be more transparent and resistant to manipulation as witnessed in the Cambridge Analytica scandal," Gozi said, referring to the company that collected millions of Facebook users' data without their consent and used it for political advertising.

EU to open up 'black box' of political ads

Paid political ads will have to show how much was spent on the ad, the sources of funds, the name of the sponsor. "Without providing this information, political advertisement will be illegal," commission vice-president Věra Jourová said.

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