The European Commission launches public consultations on transparency of political advertising

The European Commission is seeking input from stakeholders on transparency in political advertising as a follow-up to the commitments made in the European Democracy Action Plan to issue a legislative proposal in Q3 2021. The proposal will cover both online and offline advertising and will complement the rules set out in the Commission’s proposal for a Digital Services Act (DSA), with the aim of having specific rules in place sufficiently in advance for the European Parliament elections in May 2024.

All interested stakeholders, including the general public, academics, industry, NGOs, media, public authorities and political parties, have the possibility to provide their input on both the Commission’s Inception Impact Assessment (IIA) and the broader Public Consultation.

Open to feedback until February 23rd, the IIA points out that current rules on political advertising (online and offline) significantly diverge across EU Member States, thus increasing regulatory fragmentation, legal uncertainty and compliance costs for the parties involved. Furthermore, national regulatory authorities often lack the resources and capacity to enforce such rules which also need to catch up with the increasing cross-border and technological nature of political advertising in order to tackle misleading political communications. In this context, the IIA provides three possible policy options to address these problems:

  1. Soft law measures based on existing initiatives (e.g. Action Plan against Disinformation) and new tools such as codes of conduct for political parties, information campaigns, recommendations, and promotion of voluntary transparency actions.
  2. Targeted legislation setting out common definitions, mandatory minimum standards for transparency, access and disclosure of data to facilitate enforcement, out-of-court arrangements, and labelling of political ads.
  3. Legislation harmonizing specific conditions and criteria in the context of political advertising establishing common rules on financing, content moderation and co-regulation.

Open to feedback until April 2nd, the Commission’s public consultation looks at the issue of political advertising from a broader perspective via a 24-pages questionnaire. Hence, stakeholders are invited to share their experience and knowledge on the use and rules for political advertising in their own country. The document also seeks input on potential key definitions, transparency requirements, as well as measures on targeting and amplification.