NEWS5 November 2019

Facebook and Google urged to pause political ads ahead of UK election

Brexit Election 2019 Media News Public Sector Technology UK

UK – Organisations including Mozilla, Demos and Doteveryone have called on Facebook and Google to issue a moratorium on political advertising in the UK in the run up to the general election.

Online political ads laptop_crop

In an open letter addressed to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Nick Clegg, and Google’s Sundar Pichai and Kent Walker, the organisations urged the two companies to immediately halt all “political and issue-based advertising” on their platforms until the election has concluded on 12th December.

While work is ongoing to address legislation, with such a short time frame until the election, “there is no time for regulations to catch up,” the organisations wrote.

They said: “This legislative blackspot is particularly concerning in light of Facebook’s recent policies to allow politicians to openly publish disinformation through ads. Equally concerning is the lack of transparency as to what data is being used to target ads, and how such ads are being targeted.”

The letter, published yesterday ( 4th November) is signed by representatives of Mozilla, Demos, Doteveryone, Institute for Strategic Dialogue, Open Data Institute, Tech Inquiry, University of Sheffield and Open Knowledge Foundation.

The suspension is not without precedent, the letter notes, citing Google’s blocking of political advertising in Ireland for two weeks ahead of the 2018 referendum on abortion, while ads were blocked for the duration of the Israeli and Canadian elections.

“Blocking political and issue-based ads is not a long-term solution, and we recognise that this measure may impact the much-needed voices of smaller campaign groups,” said the groups. “But in the UK context, with dated electoral law and a lack of implementation of existing data protection laws, coupled with your platform’s failures to sufficiently address the concerns raised, in this instance, it’s a necessary trade-off.”

Last week, Twitter founder and chief executive Jack Dorsey announced its plan to stop all political advertising on the platform globally.

Following Twitter’s announcement, Paul Bainsfair, director general of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), said: “While we support regulation, we do not foresee this happening any time soon, if at all. In its absence, platforms need to step up and consider their responsibilities. At the very least, but immediately, platforms should fully commit their support, money and resources to a publicly available, platform-neutral, machine-readable register of all political ads and ad data online. If they cannot provide this they should consider following Twitter’s lead.”