Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, immediate release 7th May 2019
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Campaigners hail ‘victory for democracy’ as Government commit to new regulations to end ‘wild west’ of online political advertising as part of new proposals to safeguard UK elections.
The commitment was one of several proposals unveiled by the government to crack down on intimidation, influence and disinformation in the democratic process and safeguard elections from outside interference .
The Electoral Reform Society have been campaigning for a change in the law to extend electoral regulation to online adverts – ending the ‘wild west’ of online advertising as part of a wider package of reforms to electoral law .
The move that will require candidates, political parties and non-party to include imprints – a notice declaring who has paid for and promoted election material – in their digital election materials is a vital step for helping to prevent misleading political advertising online.
Currently only printed election material requires an imprint – meaning up to now online adverts have gone unregulated leading to a rise in ‘dark ads’ and election materials produced by unknown organisations with no regulation or oversight.
The announcement follows on the government’s consultation on ‘Protecting the Debate’ to which the ERS responded , and which sought views on proposals to protect the electoral system against intimidation and undue influence to improve transparency in digital election material.
Darren Hughes, Chief Executive, Electoral Reform Society said:
“We welcome the Government’s announcement – this update the UK’s analogue campaign laws is long overdue and will finally and bring them into the digital age. This is a significant victory for those campaigning for greater transparency to safeguard our democratic process.
“For too long our electoral laws have been trailing behind campaigning practices allowing a political ‘wild west’ in online adverts – ripe for abuse, interference and misinformation.
“This change can only be a first step towards comprehensive reform of our electoral laws. Now we need to see a full review of our dangerously outdated regulations if we are to fully safeguard our democratic processes.”
Earlier this year the ERS published a new report ‘Reining in the ‘Wild West’ .
It brought together regulators, academics and campaigners for the first time to demand comprehensive campaign reform.