EU rules aim for more transparency in targeted political ads

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EU executive wants travel suspension from countries with new COVID variant Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021
By Reuters
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By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS - U.S. tech giants will have to provide more data on their targeted political ads or risk fines up to 4% of their global turnover under draft EU rules seen by Reuters, part of the bloc's crackdown on misinformation during elections.

The measure is the latest EU move to rein in the power of Alphabet unit Google, Facebook and other social media giants, and force them to be more accountable and transparent.

"The (EU's) internal market is not currently equipped to provide political advertising to a high standard of transparency to ensure a fair and open democratic process in all member states," the 39-page draft document said.

The paper defines political advertising as the publication of a message by a political actor such as an individual or a European political party or alliance to influence the outcome of an election or referendum, a legislative or regulatory process or voting behaviour.

Each advertisement will have to include a statement stating that it is a political ad, the sponsor's name, the aggregated amounts spent or other benefits received for the ad, and other details showing the wider context of the ad and its aims.

Politicians or others advertising their campaigns on the tech companies' sites will have to declare this to the companies.

The draft also proposes an indirect ban on some opaque techniques because either companies can explain what they are doing or they cannot do it.

Organic content such as politicians posting something on Twitter or Facebook without any payment will be exempted from the rules.

European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova, who will present the draft rules on Thursday, last month said in a tweet that trying to influence elections cannot be a race between dirty methods.

The Commission will have to iron out details with EU lawmakers and EU countries before it can adopt the legislation in 2023.

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