France pitches urgent reporting for political ads before elections

The proposal, launched by the Commission in November last year, as part of efforts to better safeguard Europe’s electoral processes and public debate from foreign interference.[Shutterstock / pogonici]

Political ad providers in the European Union will have 48 hours to address notifications and provide information about political ads in the month leading up to votes, under the compromise text on the EU directive regulating political ads. 

The new provisions are part of the first compromise text put forth by the French Presidency of the EU Council, leaked by Contexte. The legislative proposal was launched by the European Commission in November last year, as part of efforts to better safeguard the integrity of Europe’s electoral processes and public debate from manipulation.

The proposal covers content that is sponsored by or on behalf of political actors and is liable – and, under the compromise text, “designed” – to influence the outcome of an election or referendum. 

The Commission’s aim is to have the initiative in place by next spring, ahead of the 2024 European Parliament elections. 

EU Commission presents new rules for political ads

The European Commission launched a proposal to regulate political advertising, introducing transparency obligations for marketers and strict limits to the use of sensitive personal information.

The proposal was published on Thursday (25 November) to protect the electoral process and democratic debate …

Central to the changes proposed by France are more stringent time limits on responding to notifications and providing information in the run-up to elections. 

A key focus of the proposal is transparency, including the requirement that political advertising publishers publish information including the identity of the ad’s sponsor and the vote it is linked to, where applicable, as well as to ensure that mechanisms exist for individuals to report political ads that do not comply. 

Under the compromise proposal is the requirement that the publication of these transparency notices occur as soon as the ad is published or disseminated, and that they are regularly updated. 

Also included in the compromise text is the requirement that, in the month preceding an election or referendum, publishers of political advertisements will have to process any notifications about ads linked to the vote within 48 hours of receiving them. 

In addition to this, the compromise text also builds on a provision of the original text which requires service providers to supply national authorities with relevant information on the transparency of political ads where requested. 

Where in normal times providers would have ten days in which to respond with the information, the compromise text introduces a provision that would reduce this window to 48 hours in the last month of an election campaign, as infringements during this period would be considered to “negatively and severely” affect citizens’ rights. 

The updated text also includes measures that would see additional information made available to individuals, via transparency notices, about the logic and parameters used in the processing of personal data for the targeting and amplification of political ads. 

Among this information would be the specific groups targeted, the source of personal data being used, the goals and mechanisms of the targeting and the number of individuals to whom the ad is being disseminated. 

The updated text also formally adds journalists to the list of “other interested entities” that will be entitled to request information about ads from providers, which already includes those such as vetted researchers, civil society organisations and recognised electoral observers.

The text will now move on to be discussed by Council diplomats.

[Edited by Luca Bertuzzi/Zoran Radosavljevic]

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