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Online political adverts in the UK may soon need a “digital imprint” clearly labelling which party or campaign is behind them.
Government plans to tighten transparency rules for the digital sphere come amid concern over online campaigning which has been growing since the Brexit referendum.
Campaigners say the current system leaves the UK’s electoral system open to “anonymous ‘dark ads’, dodgy donors, and foreign interference” from hostile states such as Russia.
Constitution minister Chloe Smith said the move represents a “big step forward” would mean the same level of transparency to online campaigning as to other regulated activity.
“People want to engage with politics online. That’s where campaigners connect with voters and is why, ahead of elections, almost half of political advertising budgets are now spent on digital content and activity,” she said.
“But people want to know who is talking. Voters value transparency, so we must ensure that there are clear rules to help them see who is behind campaign content online.
“The measures we have outlined today are a big step forward towards making UK politics even more transparent and would lead to one of the most comprehensive set of regulations operating in the world today.”
Boris Johnson had pledged to tackle the issue as part of the Tories election manifesto amid complaints groups or organisations behind ads were not clearly identified.
Under the proposals, online material will be required to carry a digital imprint in the same way that other materials such as leaflets and posters must show who is promoting them.
It would also cover content produced by registered political parties, registered third parties, political candidates, elected office holders and registered referendum campaigners – both paid-for and organic.
The rules will apply all the year round and...