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New advertising rules to stop foreign attacks on EU elections

Just a few months prior to the EU elections, the European parliament has approved new rules for political advertising saying the aim is to enhance citizen’s trust in election campaigns and fight disinformation and foreign interference. The EU elections are held on June 6 – 9 when citizens in EU member states will elect 720 members of the parliament in Brussels – 15 more than five years ago. 

Some of the new rules will be in force during the election campaign but not all. The new rules include a ban on sponsoring ads from outside the EU ahead of elections.

The new rules will regulate political advertisements, notably online ads, but also include a framework for political actors on how to advertise more easily across the EU.

Under the new rules, political advertising will have to be clearly labelled. “Citizens, authorities and journalists will be able to easily obtain information on 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. All political advertising and related information will be stored in a public online repository”, the parliament says.

To limit foreign interference in European democratic processes, sponsoring ads from outside the EU will be prohibited in the three-month period before an election or referendum.

Read Also:  Disinformation a threat during the big election year 2024

Targeting of online political advertising based on personal data is only allowed after a person’ s explicit and separate consent. Special categories of personal data (e.g. ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation) or minors’ data cannot be used. 

“Digital technologies make citizens more vulnerable to disinformation and foreign interference. Now more than ever, it is crucial to safeguard our democratic and electoral processes. The rules adopted today play a pivotal role in helping citizens discern who is behind a political message and make an informed choice when they head to the polls”, says the parliament’s rapporteur for the ad rules, Sandro Gozi (Renew, FR).  

“With the European elections approaching, we urge all major online platforms to start applying the new rules as soon as possible and ensure the digital space remains a safe place to exchange political ideas and opinions”.

The rules will apply 18 months after the entry into force, while the definitions and measures on the non-discriminatory provision of cross-border political advertising (including for European political parties and political groups) will apply already 20 days after the publication in the EU Official Journal.

2024 is a big election year with around two billion people around the world being able to vote in elections. Elections include for the EU parliament and the US presidency. 

Fighting disinformation is crucial and much of this disinformation is technology-based. A global UNESCO survey shows that 87% of citizens are worried about the impact of disinformation on elections in their country.

The 2024 European Parliament election is held on 6 to 9 June 2024] This will be the tenth parliamentary election since the first direct elections in 1979, and the first European Parliament election after Brexit.

Read Also:  Deep-fake video ads a threat to the big election year 2024


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