MEPs vote for tougher rules on political advertising
- More information available to citizens, authorities and journalists
- Online advert providers banned from carrying out micro-targeting
- Additional sanctions for breaches and shorter deadlines for investigating alleged breaches
- Banning non-EU based entities from financing political advertisements in the EU
Plenary on Thursday backed numerous changes to proposed political advertising rules to make elections and referenda more transparent and resistant to interference.
With 433 votes in favour, 61 against and 110 abstentions, the House expressed its support for the negotiating position proposed by the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee. The plenary endorsement gives the go ahead to Parliament’s lead negotiator, Sandro Gozi (Renew, FR) to begin talks with representatives of the member states to agree a text in time for the 2024 European elections.
Restricting targeting strategies and a de facto ban on micro-targeting
Under the changes made by MEPs to the Commission’s proposal, only personal data explicitly provided for online political advertising can be used by advert providers. Micro-targeting, a strategy that uses consumer data and demographics to identify the interests of specific individuals, will therefore not be possible.Parliament introduced other provisions to further regulate the broader activity of targeting, such as a blanket ban on using minors’ data.
Tackling interference from abroad
MEPs propose non-EU based entities be banned from financing political advertisements in the EU. To determine where such an entity is established, the relevant authorities should take into account where the ultimate controller of this entity is located.
MEPs also made significant changes to ensure that citizens, authorities and journalists have easy access to information on political advertisement. Among other proposals, they advocate creating an online repository for all online political advertisements and related data.
It should be easier to obtain information on who is financing an advert, on its cost, and the origin of the money used. Other pieces of information which should also be published include whether an advertisement has been suspended for violating the rules, on the specific groups of individuals targeted and what personal data were used for this, and the views and engagement with the advertisement. MEPs aim to give journalists a specific right to obtain such information.
New sanctions in case of infringement
MEPs introduce the possibility of periodic penalties to be levied for a repeated violation and the obligation for large advertisement service providers to suspend their services for 15 days with a particular client in the case of serious and systemic infringements. The Commission will be able to introduce EU-wide minimum sanctions.
The adopted text also strengthens the powers of the national authorities and allows the European Data Protection Board to take over an investigation into an infringement and enforce the rules.
Speaking in the on Wednesday, rapporteur Sandro Gozi (Renew, FR) said: “There is too much undue interference in our democratic processes. As legislators we have a responsibility to fight this but also to ensure debate remains open and free. This law will not kill political advertising, despite rumours spread by large online platforms. Nor will it stymie our freedom of expression. It will only limit abusive political advertising.”
Talks will now soon begin between the two co-legislators, Parliament and the Council Presidency representing the member states –whose mandate for negotiations was adopted in December 2022.