Socialist and Green MEPs find ‘holes’ in political advertising rules

Socialist and Green MEPs find ‘holes’ in political advertising rules

The Socialist MEPs and Greens of the Internal Market Committee criticized the European Commission’s proposal on political advertising as lacking in ambition.

“I am disappointed that there is no ambition for these rules which are more than just transparency,” Socialist MEP Maria Manuel Letao Marquez said during Monday’s debate (January 10).

“Obviously we need to work… [but] This is a kind of placebo, water and sugar, as medicine for an important disease.”

Leitão Marques argued that tracking-based advertising has led to a new dynamic in political campaigns – and that the new rules will not fundamentally solve existing problems, such as the risk of manipulation and lack of access to a plurality of viewpoints.

Tracking-based advertising has become a growing concern for policy makers, particularly in the political arena – mainly because they tend to rely on large amounts of personal data and invasive monitoring practices, of which the user is rarely aware.

The legislative proposal, introduced by the European Union Commission in November, would ban the use of sensitive personal data for politically targeted ads, with two exceptions.

Providers of politically targeted advertising may use information about people’s ethnic origin, political opinions, religious beliefs, or trade union membership if the individual has given express consent or if the user has regular contact with an organization, association or other non-profit body.

But Alexandra Eze of the Green Party/UEFA views such rulings as “big loopholes”.

She told a representative of the committee: “Did you know that extremist organizations on the Internet are those that are in regular contact with a much larger number of people than the more centralized or democratic organizations?”

“Aren’t you afraid that with these exceptions, you encourage extremist and conspiratorial organizations, giving them more influence and weight especially in the online debate?” She added.

“This might be a good proposal but it completely ignores engagement-based targeting and amplification mechanisms,” Geiss said, calling for a complete ban on all targeted political advertising.

The Cambridge Analytica 2018 scandal, in which Facebook users’ data was collected without their consent for political ads, highlighted the risks associated with the misuse of personal data for political purposes.

The draft legislation would require digital platforms, PR firms, data brokers, political parties and even influencers to clearly label paid political ads — including information such as who paid for the ad, how much was spent on it or what the partial targeting criteria were. used.

The proposal is seen as a complement to the Digital Services Act, a rulebook that will force companies like Google and Facebook to remove illegal content faster and be more transparent about how their services operate.

The European Parliament members of the Internal Market Committee will now finalize their final position on the proposed EU Commission political declaration before entering into negotiations with EU members.

The goal is for the new rules to be in place by mid-2023, a year before the next European elections.

Overall, four out of ten Europeans are exposed to content they feel they cannot easily identify as political advertising, according to an EU-wide survey last year.

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