To limit foreign interference and increase transparency, the EU Council and Parliament agreed on a regulation on Monday that harmonises requirements for political advertising across countries and bans foreign actors from sponsoring political ads before an election – but the rules will only apply after the EU elections.
Key measures include the clear labelling of political ads, easier access to information about financing, and the creation of a public repository containing all online political advertisements and related information for up to seven years – tasked to the Commission.
By pressure from the EU Council, the rules will only apply 18 months after the regulation enters into force, missing the EU elections in June, which was one of the main goals of the European Parliament.
Still, the definitions and the ‘non-discrimination clause’ will apply, stipulating that services cannot be restricted solely based on the place of residence of the sponsor of the political advertising, allowing for smoother cross-border advertising.
The regulation also limits ad targeting to data submitted by the individual explicitly for online political advertising while completely banning the use of minors’ data and data revealing racial, ethnic origin, sexual orientation or religion.
“The new rules will make it harder for foreign actors to spread disinformation and interfere in our free and democratic processes. We also secured a favourable environment for transnational campaigning in time for the next European Parliament elections”, the file’s rapporteur, MEP Sandro Gozi, said in a press release.
The regulation bans third-country organisations from sponsoring political advertising during the three months before any election or referendum.
Regarding foreign interference, the Commission is also expected to propose a package in November, which will include some sort of ‘foreign agents act’ to regulate foreign funding dedicated to lobbying activities across the EU.
Rules will only apply to sponsored political advertisements, and personal views, political opinions, journalistic content, or general communications by official organisations do not fall under the regulations’ scope.
If rules are violated, the regulation establishes sanction regimes in line with the DSA – up to 6% of an ad provider’s annual income or turnover.
The new rulebook has been long in the making, as inter-institutional negotiations to reach a final deal started on 28 February, with six trilogues ultimately needed.
One of the issues that slowed the negotiations was the protection of personal data, as the EU Council had not agreed on a negotiating mandate on the topic ahead of the trilogue on 10 October, a source close to the matter told Euractiv.
Once the text is finalised at the technical level and checked by lawyer-linguists, the EU Council will have to confirm it, after which it will be sent back to the Parliament’s plenary for a final vote.
(Max Griera | Euractiv.com)
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