21st Century Electoral Laws

Parliament needs to take action on Britain’s analogue-age campaign rules.

Sign our petition for campaign regulations fit for the 21st Century Sign Now

The main legislation regulating political parties’ campaigning activity and finance dates back to 2000 – before Facebook (2004) or Twitter (2006) existed, let alone had any role in political campaigns.

Parties and campaigns can now collect huge quantities of personal information with little oversight. The rules on campaigning need to catch up with the digital age.

A dark advert is a paid for post on a social media website. These posts are only visible to the people being targeted (who may or may not follower the buyer) and do not appear on the buyer's timeline. Although dark ads are labelled as sponsored, they look the same as the organic posts around them and disappear after they have been seen.

Who’s targeting you?

When a leaflet is pushed through your door during an election it has to contain an ‘imprint’ detailing who paid for and promoted it. But there are no such rules for adverts pushed on to your timeline or following you around the internet.

We support the Electoral Commission’s longstanding recommendation to extend imprint requirements to online election material, which the Commission has advocated since 2003. It’s time the government followed their advice.

What are they saying to your neighbours?

It’s vital that political campaigns happen in the open. Given their printed nature, election materials are visible to everyone equally, but the same can’t be said of online adverts. You just can’t know what candidates are saying to the different members of your family or neighbours down the road.

Policies might contradict each other, or change as election day approaches, but you would have no way of knowing.

While some internet giants have taken steps towards greater transparency, we believe the integrity of our elections cannot be left to the whims of individual companies.

It's time to shine a light on ‘dark ads’ online

Anonymous groups can plough hundreds of thousands of pounds into trying to change our political debate online.

Voters on all sides deserve to know who is paying for online campaign adverts – and why we’re being targeted. It’s time we brought the law up to date so campaigns are transparent about who’s paying for our politics, and why.

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More information about 21st Century Electoral Laws

Publications

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Briefings

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Date published
10/06/19
Submission for

PACAC Electoral Law Inquiry Written Evidence

Type
Campaign Regulation
Date published
18/10/18
Submission for

Response to the Protecting the Debate consultation

Type
Campaign Regulation