August 11, 2020
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Online Political Ads To Be Tagged So Voters Know Who Is Behind Them
Online political adverts in the UK may soon need a “digital imprint” clearly labelling which party or campaign is behind them. 
Government plans to tighten transparency rules for the digital sphere come amid concern over online campaigning which has been growing since the Brexit referendum. 
Campaigners say the current system leaves the UK’s electoral system open to “anonymous ‘dark ads’, dodgy donors, and foreign interference” from hostile states such as Russia
Constitution minister Chloe Smith said the move represents a “big step forward” would mean the same level of transparency to online campaigning as to other regulated activity.
“People want to engage with politics online. That’s where campaigners connect with voters and is why, ahead of elections, almost half of political advertising budgets are now spent on digital content and activity,” she said.
“But people want to know who is talking. Voters value transparency, so we must ensure that there are clear rules to help them see who is behind campaign content online.
“The measures we have outlined today are a big step forward towards making UK politics even more transparent and would lead to one of the most comprehensive set of regulations operating in the world today.”
Boris Johnson had pledged to tackle the issue as part of the Tories election manifesto amid complaints groups or organisations behind ads were not clearly identified.
Under the proposals, online material will be required to carry a digital imprint in the same way that other materials such as leaflets and posters must show who is promoting them.
It would also cover content produced by registered political parties, registered third parties, political candidates, elected office holders and registered referendum campaigners – both paid-for and organic.
The rules will apply all the year round and not just during election or referendum campaign periods.
Ministers said they worked closely with Social Media platforms, the Electoral Commission, and devolved administrations to develop technical proposals to ensure the rules do not interfere with people’s ability to engage in Democratic debate online.They will only apply to unregistered campaigners if they are promoting paid-for content.
Officials said the measures would also help curb online intimidation of politicians and others in public life as campaigners will be able to be held accountable for the material they produce.
Digital imprints were a specific recommendation by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in its review into intimidation.
The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) said the changes were long overdue and that it was now essential they were backed with effective enforcement measures.
“For too long, our democracy has been wide open to anonymous ‘dark ads’, dodgy donors, and foreign interference online. This won’t solve all that, but it will help to plug one of the many leaks in HMS Democracy,” said ERS chief executive Darren Hughes.
“This move will need to be well-enforced, and with strong sanctions for unscrupulous campaigners. Currently, the fines the Electoral Commission can levy are seen as the ‘cost of doing business’.”Related... Can Trump Really Ban TikTok – And Could It Happen In The UK Too? UK Insists It Has 'Robust' Security Following Reports Liam Fox's Email Account Was Hacked What The Hell Is Going On With Brexit?
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