Lawmakers ban foreign sponsoring of online ads three months before EU election

The European Parliament elections take place in June.
The European Parliament elections take place in June. Copyright Jean-Francois Badias/Copyright 2018 The AP. All rights reserved
By Cynthia Kroet
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The rules will add to measures already in place for online platforms under the Digital Services Act.

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The European Parliament today approved stricter rules for political advertising, aimed at restricting foreign interference, notably online. Under the framework, sponsors from third countries will not be able to pay for political advertising in the EU in the three-month period before an election or referendum.

Political ads based on profiling and the use of minors’ data will also be prohibited. In addition, any political ad will have to be clearly labelled as such and include information such as who paid for it and how much it cost.

The plans were put forward by the European Commission in 2021 to increase transparency of political advertising, as part of measures aimed at protecting election integrity.

“We don't think this is the silver bullet, but certainly something important that makes the lives for some actors more difficult,” Sandro Gozi, (France/Renew), the lawmaker in charge of steering the file through parliament, said at a press conference today (27 February).

“We finally create a single market for political advertising services. The provision to ban non-EU actors to finance campaigns will apply on time for the next EU elections, but generally the rules will apply to any vote; regional, municipal and national,” he added.

DSA

Under the Digital Services Act (DSA), online platform rules, very large online platforms already have to abide by strict rules to combat misinformation, including transparency requirements.

Social media companies TikTok and Meta announced their measures to combat misinformation this month. For example, Meta said that it will ensure that advertisers who run ads related to elections with it will have to disclose if they use AI or fake images.

The commission is currently garnering feedback with a view to producing draft guidelines under the DSA on the integrity of elections. The guidelines aim to give companies best practices and examples of potential mitigation measures relating to election-related risks and Generative AI content.

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