Transparency for Political Ads on Social Media
By Bryan Lewis
Originally published by City of Wolverhampton Liberal Democrats
At long last the government has accepted that there should should be a digital imprint on online political advertisements. For a long time printed election material has had to display an imprint showing who is behind the election message. Election law is always very slow in catching up with reality.
The Cabinet Office's proposals are a welcome recognition of the changing nature of political campaigning and of the vital importance of transparency in restoring trust in our democratic processes.
The proposals would require an imprint on any online 'election material' - defined as material whose purpose is 'to achieve the electoral success of registered political parties and candidates, or the material relates to a referendum' - and would be displayed on the online ad itself or, if this is not possible, in an alternative location linked to the material.
Unregistered campaigners, such as members of the public, who are not paying to promote their content, but merely engaging in democratic debate, would not be required to display an imprint. This is an important distinction which allows for freedom of expression and healthy democratic debate.
The Electoral Commission is expected to be tasked with enforcing the new regime in relation to ads displayed by parties and other campaigners, while the police would enforce ads promoted by candidates, as is the case with existing regulations for offline material.
This is an important step towards updating our outdated election rules and enhancing the transparency of our democratic processes but much more neds to be done.