Subscribe Here

Report on Digital Transparency in Political Advertising Released as Part of Virtual Insanity Project

01 April 2020

What needs to be done to guarantee transparency in digital political advertising? Digital political advertising—and regulations surrounding this topic— has received a fair amount of attention in recent years, specifically because of its role and impact in the Brexit referendum and the US presidential election in 2016, but in other elections as well.

Europe needs new safeguards to guarantee transparency in digital political advertising that allow regulators to oversee who is funding what online. The self-regulatory Code of Practice that the European Commission adopted with tech companies is an important first step. Yet, the Code does not foresee clear enforcement or sanction mechanisms.

The Virtual Insanity project worked towards strengthening European level policy so as to guarantee transparency in digital political advertising. The project, led by the European Partnership for Democracy in partnership with the NHC and others, facilitated research and multi- stakeholder policy dialogues at the national and European level, coalition-based monitoring and advocacy efforts towards an EU-level policy on digital political advertising transparency.

The tension between the integrity of electoral systems and a vastly unregulated digital sphere has arguably become an inherent danger to democracies worldwide. It is therefore essential to keep the conversation going by evaluating the methods taken so far to tackle this issue, and put forward new proposals on how to move forward.

Research was done on the level to which tech platforms in different countries complied with the Code of Practice against disinformation on matters related to digital political advertising. The NHC coordinated research done in the Netherlands by Rebekah Tromble, George Washington University, Kristof Jacobs, Radboud Univeristy of Nijmegen, and Tom Louwerse, Leiden University. In addition to the Netherlands, research was also done in Czech Republic, and Italy.

You can find the Country Report on the Netherlands here.

You can find the Synthesis of Finding from all three countries here.