BRUSSELS (AP) – Concerned about the misuse of political propaganda to undermine elections, the European Union on Thursday unveiled its plans to help people better understand when they are seeing such ads and who is responsible for their content.
The proposals, which are intended to ensure fair and transparent elections or referenda, would also prohibit “amplification techniques” and political personalization used to reach a wider audience if they use sensitive personal data such as ethnic origin, religious beliefs or sexual orientation without citizen permission. .
“Digital advertising for political purposes is becoming a runaway race with dirty and opaque methods,” said European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova. “Endless communication and data analysis companies work with our data every day to find the best way to convince us to buy something or vote for someone or not vote at all.”
“People should know why they are seeing an ad, who paid for it, how much, what personalization criteria were used. New technologies must be tools of emancipation, not manipulation, “he added.
The commission, the executive branch of the EU, is confident that the 27 member states and the European Parliament have debated and incorporated the proposals into their national laws by 2023, in time for the European elections the following year.
Companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter would face fines if they break the rules.
Under the plan, political ads would have to be clearly identified and prominently display the name of the payer, with a transparency notice explaining how much the ad cost and where the funds come from to pay for it. The material should have a direct link to the vote in question.
Information should also be available on why a certain ad is displayed to a person or group of people and what amplification tools are used to help the payer reach a wider audience. If those criteria are not met, the notices would be banned.
“Sensitive data that people choose to share with friends on social media cannot be used for political purposes,” Jourova told reporters. “Companies like Facebook have the ability to publicly say who they are targeting, why and how, or they won’t be able to.”
Data protection authorities would monitor compliance with the rules in each EU country. National authorities would be obliged to impose “effective, proportionate and dissuasive fines” when the rules are breached.
The plans were greeted with caution by the industry.
“Right now, each country has its strategy for political advisories, so more guidance at the EU level would help drive pan-European efforts, which is especially important for smaller companies,” said Victoria de Posson, Director at The Computer & Communications Industry Association.
However, he noted, more clarity is needed “on customization requirements and definitions”, and the industry wants the EU to consult with “representatives of industry and civil society to ensure that the new legal framework sets effective rules and responsibilities. shared between participants, which will make the law work better in practice ”.