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New Rules on political advertising to stop voter manipulation!

European Parliament Freedom, democracy and transparency Press releases

The new rules on political advertising need to be designed to stop the manipulation of elections and referendums through personalised advertising messages. Today, Dr. Patrick Breyer, Pirate Party MEP, tabled amendments for his Greens/EFA group to this effect. He explains:

“The deliberate manipulation of elections and referendums by exploiting the preferences and fears of users is a particular threat, because it jeopardises the democratic society. It is no coincidence that this is particularly ‘successful’ when practiced by opponents of our democracy. The methods used by Cambridge Analytica to spy on users, which had contributed to the surprising election of Trump as US president, must be stopped!

The integrity of democratic elections is of general interest and cannot depend on individual choices. We also need to prevent politicians from sending different or even contradictory messages to women and men, young and old, urban and rural citizens. The targeting of voters on the basis of knowledge about their personality and behaviour must be prohibited! The tried and tested targeting of voters based on the advertising medium (e.g. local newspaper) or the content of the page (e.g. key words) is perfectly adequate without personal data.”

Since the unlawful processing of personal data for political advertising can result in an unfair political advantage which financial sanctions cannot remedy, the additional sanction of suspending political advertising for a limited time should be introduced, proposes Breyer.

Background: Advertising platforms such as Facebook or Instagram monitor every click of their users in order to infer their personality traits, fears, hopes, etc. and sell them to advertisers. In Germany, there have been repeated cases of contradictory election target group[1][2]. In the United Kingdom, before the Brexit vote, certain audiences were targeted with false claims, for example suggesting that the EU wanted to ban tea kettles, or that Turkey was joining the EU.