The EU seeks to block political advertisements targeting people’s ethnicity or religion

The European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, has proposed banning certain types of political advertising that uses sensitive personal information, including ethnicity, religion, health or sexual orientation, unless users give their explicit consent. If the rules take effect, advertisers should provide clear details about the criteria they use to target, as well as the “tools or methods of reinforcement” they use.

Each ad should also be more transparent in terms of highlighting the name of the person or organization that paid for it, as well as revealing how much was spent, where the money came from, and the ad’s connection to the election or referendum.

The EC hopes that these measures will help protect electoral integrity, mainly by making it more difficult for campaigns to target and mislead marginalized groups. It states that people should be able to easily discern when they see a paid political advertisement, either online or offline, and to participate in political debates without the influence of interference, manipulation or misinformation.

“Elections must not be a competition of opaque and non-transparent methods. People need to know why they see the ad, who paid for it, how much, what micro-targeting criteria were used, ”EC Vice President for Values ​​and Transparency Vera Jourová said in a statement.

If the law becomes law, EU member states will have to impose penalties for breaking the rules. National data protection authorities will have the task of monitoring how personal data is used in targeting advertisements and imposing penalties when appropriate. The EC hopes to adopt rules based on and planned by the spring of 2023, ahead of next year’s European Parliament elections.

Political ads have been a hot issue for online platforms for several years. and both after the polls closed in the 2020 U.S. presidential election to stem the flow of disinformation. Earlier this month, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, offered thousands of options to target ads, including those related to ethnicity, health, religion, sexual orientation and political beliefs. Twitter in 2019.

The proposed EC rules could also prevent some types of secret data collection. As early as 2019, PR farms affiliated with the Republican Party used Google’s ad network for potential voters.

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Naveen Kumar

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