UK political parties must disclose identity of digital ad funders, states watchdog

Parties required to give a detailed breakdown of money spent on digital advertising

Just a day after Prime Minister Theresa May accused Russia of running a covert propaganda war using fake news to ‘sow discord’ in the west, the UK’s elections watchdog has proposed a plan whereby political parties and campaigners could face regulation of their Tweets and other social media posts during the election periods.

According to the Guardian, the Electoral Commission will also ask political parties to provide a detailed breakdown of how much money is spent on digital advertising as this “would enable voters to identify who is spending money trying to influence them at elections”.

The report states: “Requiring imprints on digital or online campaign material, for example, would enable voters and the public to be confident about who is trying to influence them during election campaigns.” An imprint is a formal statement of who an advert is published by. Failure to include the information should be punishable by a fine, the commission added.

The development comes as MPs on the House of Commons media committee prepare to begin an inquiry into whether Moscow has tried to interfere in British politics, which is due to hear from representatives of Twitter and Facebook.

Sir John Holmes, Chair of the Electoral Commission, said: “Most candidates, parties and campaigners comply with the rules. However, failures to comply can reduce transparency and damage voters’ confidence in elections, which is why breaches must be dealt with effectively.”

“We want to work with the UK’s governments and legislatures to ensure further transparency about spending on digital and online campaigns, and to reassure voters accordingly. These changes should be in place ahead of the next scheduled national elections,” Holmes added.

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