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New legislation will regulate political advertising on social media

The move comes amid an international debate about how social media platforms handle political ads.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/BigTunaOnline

THE GOVERNMENT IS planning to introduce new legislation that will clamp down on paid-for political advertising on social media.

The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government will draft legislation that will regulate “the transparency of online paid political advertising within election periods”.

In a statement issued this evening, the government said the objectives of the policy are as follows:

  • to protect the integrity of elections, ensure they are free and fair, and not captured by a narrow range of interests
  • to respect the fundamental right to freedom of expression and the value of political advertising and its importance to democratic and electoral processes while ensuring that regulation of expression meets the requirements of lawfulness, necessity and proportionality
  • to respect the role of the internet in the public sphere of political discourse and ensure that the public have access to legitimate information required in order to make autonomous voting decisions

The legislation will apply to online platforms, as sellers or intermediaries of political advertising, and buyers of political adverts.

The obligation will be placed on the seller to determine that an advert falls under the scope of the regulation.

Online paid-for political advertisement will be required to be labelled as such and clearly display certain information, or a link to the information, “in a clear and conspicuous manner”.

The move comes amid an international debate about how social media platforms such as Facebook handle political ads

In a statement, a government spokesperson noted that certain platforms have already “taken steps to combat such disinformation, but there is general consensus that regulation should not be left to the market”.

“This proposal to regulate is limited to online political advertising and is seen as an interim measure until the establishment of a Statutory Electoral Commission which will oversee a wider reform of the electoral processes,” they added. 

The detailed proposal is outlined in the progress report of the Interdepartmental Group on the Security of Ireland’s Electoral Process and Disinformation which will be published shortly. It follows on from a public consultation and open policy forum on the issue.

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Órla Ryan

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