Georgia Is a Purple State, but Don’t Expect Centrist Politicians

Georgia flipped blue for Joe Biden, but in its all-important and costly Senate runoff elections, the Republicans are in full attack mode while the Democrats stick to a steady liberal message.

#conservatism-us-politics, #democratic-party, #elections-senate, #georgia, #liberalism-us-politics, #loeffler-kelly-l, #ossoff-jon, #perdue-david-a-jr, #political-advertising, #republican-party, #united-states-politics-and-government, #voting-and-voters, #warnock-raphael-g


Businesses With a Give-Back Mission Caught in Facebook Ad Ban

Small enterprises that support homeless people, orphans and refugees are seeing their ads pulled as part of the social media platform’s ban on political advertising.

#corporate-social-responsibility, #e-commerce, #facebook-inc, #online-advertising, #political-advertising, #social-media


The Democrats Went All Out Against Susan Collins. Rural Maine Grimaced.

The $180 million Senate contest, a political scientist said, “was like being a local in Woodstock in 1969: When it first started, it was exciting and fun, but by the end, it was muddy and dirty.”

#collins-susan-m, #elections-senate, #gideon-sara-1971, #maine, #political-advertising


Biden Video Uses Artist’s Vision to Project a Unified Country

This postelection campaign offering employs Lorraine O’Grady’s concept of placing people inside frames to promote images of an inclusive, diverse America.

#art, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #lorraine-ogrady, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #united-states-politics-and-government


Facebook and Twitter Can’t Fix Our Elections

Tech companies aren’t going to dismantle the systems that are making them billions.

#facebook-inc, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #social-media, #united-states, #zuckerberg-mark-e


What to Expect From Facebook, Twitter and YouTube on Election Day

The sites are key conduits for communication and information. Here’s how they plan to handle the challenges facing them before, on and after Tuesday.

#facebook-inc, #mohan-neal, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #rumors-and-misinformation, #social-media, #twitter, #youtube-com


Trump Camp Uses Online Gimmick to Fuel Donations into December

The Trump campaign is now automatically checking a box to create recurring weekly donations from supporters until mid-December.

#actblue, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #campaign-finance, #pennsylvania, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #republican-national-committee, #trump-donald-j, #winred


Advertisers Flock to Election Night, When Live TV Is the Main Event Again

In a media environment dominated by streaming and battered by the pandemic, companies see a rare opportunity to catch a huge audience all at once.

#abc-inc, #cable-television, #cbs-corporation, #cnn, #fox-news-channel, #national-broadcasting-co, #news-and-news-media, #political-advertising, #television


I Approve This Message. Now, Remember Your Secrecy Envelope.

With fewer voters to persuade and more votes being cast early, some political ad campaigns are focused on getting people to send in their ballots, not on pitching a particular candidate.

#political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #voting-and-voters


Stefanik’s Loyalty to Trump Is Flashpoint in $16 Million N.Y. Race

Representative Elise Stefanik’s strenuous defense of the president has enabled her Democratic opponent to raise $5 million. Ms. Stefanik has raised even more.

#campaign-finance, #cobb-tedra, #elections-house-of-representatives, #house-of-representatives, #new-york-state, #political-advertising, #stefanik-elise, #trump-donald-j


California Tax Revolt Faces a Retreat, 40 Years Later

Proposition 13 in 1978 curbed property tax increases. Now voters may strip protection for commercial buildings, helping hard-hit local budgets.

#budgets-and-budgeting, #california, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #jarvis-howard-1903-86, #landlords, #local-government, #political-advertising, #property-taxes, #real-estate-commercial, #real-estate-and-housing-residential, #recession-and-depression, #referendums, #small-business


Sanders and Warren Accuse N.Y. Democrats of False Advertising

Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren say that their images were improperly used on a flier that they view as an attack on the Working Families Party.

#cuomo-andrew-m, #democratic-party, #new-york-state, #political-advertising, #politics-and-government, #presidential-election-of-2020, #working-families-party


Bloomberg Funds Last-Minute Advertising Blitz for Biden in Texas and Ohio

The billionaire former New York City mayor has concentrated largely on Florida in the general election. But his private polling found President Trump vulnerable in two of the country’s biggest red states.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #bloomberg-michael-r, #democratic-party, #ohio, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #texas


Win or Lose, It’s Donald Trump’s Republican Party

The G.O.P.’s politicians, activists and voters are still figuring out what that means.

#florida, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #republican-party, #trump-donald-j


Times Square Billboards With Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Stir Skirmish

The couple’s lawyer threatens to sue over scathing billboards that were put up by an anti-Trump group, the Lincoln Project.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #kushner-jared, #lincoln-project, #manhattan-nyc, #outdoor-advertising, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #trump-donald-j, #trump-ivanka


It’s a Ballot Fight for Survival for Gig Companies Like Uber

A group that also includes Lyft and DoorDash has spent nearly $200 million to support a California proposition that could save them from a new labor law.

#california, #car-services-and-livery-cabs, #doordash-mobile-app, #employee-fringe-benefits, #freelancing-self-employment-and-independent-contracting, #instacart, #khosrowshahi-dara, #labor-and-jobs, #lyft-inc, #mobile-applications, #political-advertising, #postmates-inc, #uber-technologies-inc, #workplace-hazards-and-violations


How Trump’s Cash Crunch is Affecting the Campaign’s Final Weeks

With far less money than anticipated, campaign officials are scrambling to address a severe financial disadvantage against Joseph R. Biden Jr., producing something of an internal blame game.

#advertising-and-marketing, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #budgets-and-budgeting, #campaign-finance, #parscale-brad-1976, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #republican-national-committee, #stepien-bill, #television, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government


Trump’s Campaign Cash Dwindled to $63 Million Entering October

New financial filings showed the extent of the president’s cash troubles, as he is now badly outmatched by Joe Biden.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #campaign-finance, #political-action-committees, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #republican-national-committee, #republican-party, #trump-donald-j


How Joe Biden Became the Unlikeliest of Online Fund-Raising Superstars

Four inflection points transformed Mr. Biden from a pauper during the primaries to a powerhouse against President Trump.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #campaign-finance, #democratic-party, #george-floyd-protests-2020, #harris-kamala-d, #online-advertising, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #primaries-and-caucuses, #trump-ukraine-whistle-blower-complaint-and-impeachment-inquiry, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government


Trump Campaign Suggests Omarosa Manigault Newman Pay for $1 Million in Ad Spending

The suggestion emerged in an arbitration case over the critical comments Ms. Manigault Newman, a former White House aide, made about President Trump in her 2018 book “Unhinged.’’

#campaign-finance, #manigault-omarosa, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #trump-donald-j


Rep. Max Rose Seeks 2nd Term by Targeting Fellow Democrat: De Blasio

The Republican candidate is Nicole Malliotakis, but in a conservative congressional district, Mr. Rose is also happy to run against the mayor.

#elections-house-of-representatives, #malliotakis-nicole, #new-york-city, #political-advertising, #rose-max-1986, #staten-island-nyc


Trump, Lagging in Polls, Tries to Project Strength: This Week in the 2020 Race

President Trump returned to the White House this week after his hospitalization for coronavirus. He is eager to get back on the campaign trail as his support is falling far behind Joe Biden in national polls.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #debates-political, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #trump-donald-j, #white-house-coronavirus-outbreak-2020


Facebook Widens Ban on Political Ads as Alarm Rises Over Election

Political ads will be banned indefinitely after polls close on Nov. 3 and the company plans new steps to limit misinformation about the results.

#computers-and-the-internet, #corporate-social-responsibility, #facebook-inc, #news-and-news-media, #online-advertising, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #rumors-and-misinformation, #russian-interference-in-2016-us-elections-and-ties-to-trump-associates, #social-media, #united-states-politics-and-government, #zuckerberg-mark-e


Take a Social Media Break Until You’ve Voted

Democracy would be better off for it.

#absentee-voting, #facebook-inc, #google-inc, #news-and-news-media, #political-advertising, #rumors-and-misinformation, #social-media, #twitter, #united-states, #united-states-politics-and-government, #youtube-com


With Trump Sidelined, His Campaign Promises MAGA as Usual

A campaign whose fund-raising, events and messaging have all been driven by President Trump says it will stay the course while he’s off the campaign trail.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #trump-coronavirus-positive-result, #trump-donald-j


Facebook won’t accept ads that ‘delegitimize’ U.S. election results

Following a particularly dark and vivid display of the threats to the 2020 U.S. election during Tuesday’s first presidential debate, Facebook has further clarified its new rules around election-related ads.

Facebook is now expanding its political advertising rules to disallow any ads that “[seek] to delegitimize the outcome of an election” including “calling a method of voting inherently fraudulent or corrupt, or using isolated incidents of voter fraud to delegitimize the result of an election.”

Facebook Director of Product Management Rob Leathern, who leads the company’s business integrity team, announced the changes on Twitter.

Facebook says it will also not allow ads that discourage users from voting, undermine vote-by-mail or other lawful voting methods, suggest voter fraud is widespread, threaten safe voting through false health claims and ads that suggest the vote is invalid because results might not be immediately known on election night.

Both Twitter and Facebook recently issued new guidelines on how they will handle claims of election victory prior to official results, though Facebook’s rules appear to only apply to those claims if they’re made in advertising. We’ve asked Facebook for clarification about how those claims will be handled outside of ads, on a candidate’s normal account.

While Twitter opted to no longer accept political advertising across the board, Facebook is instead tweaking its rules about what kinds of political ads it will allow and when. Facebook previously announced that it would no longer accept ads about elections, social issues or politics in the U.S. after October 27, though political ads that ran before that date will be allowed to continue.

Facebook is already grappling with a deluge of attacks on the integrity of November’s U.S. election originating with President Trump and his supporters. During Tuesday night’s debate, Trump again cast doubt about voting by mail (a system already trusted and in use nationwide in the form of absentee ballots) and declined to commit to accepting election results in the event that he loses.

While the unique circumstances of the pandemic are leading to logistical challenges, voting through the mail is not new. A handful of states including Colorado and Oregon already conducted elections through the mail and vote-by-mail is just a scaled-up version of the absentee voting systems already in place nationwide.

On Wednesday, President Trump sowed conspiratorial ideas about defective ballots that were sent out in New York state as a result of vendor error. The state will reissue the ballots, but Trump seized on the incident as evidence that vote by mail is a “scam” — a claim that evidence does not bear out.

Trump’s attacks on the U.S. election are an unprecedented challenge for social platforms but also one for the nation as a whole, which has never in modern times seen the peaceful transfer of executive power threatened by a sitting president.

#2020-election, #donald-trump, #facebook, #joe-biden, #misinformation, #political-advertising, #tc


False G.O.P. Ad Prompts QAnon Death Threats Against a Democratic Congressman

#conspiracy-theories, #house-of-representatives, #malinowski-tom, #national-republican-congressional-committee, #new-jersey, #political-advertising, #qanon, #threats-and-threatening-messages, #united-states-politics-and-government


Political Groups Begin Dueling Over Barrett in a Costly Clash

The battle may near $40 million in spending and will help define the end of the presidential race, even if Democrats are unlikely to be able to stop the Supreme Court confirmation.

#barrett-amy-coney, #campaign-finance, #conservatism-us-politics, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #supreme-court-us, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government


Cambridge Analytica’s former boss gets 7-year ban on being a business director

The former CEO of Cambridge Analytica, the disgraced data company that worked for the 2016 Trump campaign and shut down in 2018 over a voter manipulation scandal involving masses of Facebook data — has been banned from running limited companies for seven years.

Alexander Nix signed a disqualification undertaking earlier this month which the UK government said yesterday it had accepted. The ban commences on October 5.

“Within the undertaking, Alexander Nix did not dispute that he caused or permitted SCL Elections Ltd or associated companies to market themselves as offering potentially unethical services to prospective clients; demonstrating a lack of commercial probity,” the UK insolvency service wrote in a press release.

Nix was suspended as CEO of Cambridge Analytica at the peak of the Facebook data scandal after footage emerged of him, filmed by undercover reporters, boasting of spreading disinformation and entrapping politicians to meet clients’ needs.

Cambridge Analytica was a subsidiary of the SCL Group, which included the division SCL Elections, while Nix was one of the key people in the group — being a director for SCL Group Ltd, SCL Social Ltd, SCL Analytics Ltd, SCL Commercial Ltd, SCL Elections and Cambridge Analytica (UK) Ltd. All six companies entered into administration in May 2018, going into compulsory liquidation in April 2019.

The “potentially unethical” activities that Nix does not dispute the companies offered, per the undertaking, are:

  • bribery stings and honey trap stings designed to uncover corruption
  • voter disengagement campaigns
  • the obtaining of information to discredit political opponents
  • the anonymous spreading of information

Last year the FTC also settled with Nix over the data misuse scandal — with the former Cambridge Analytica boss agreeing to an administrative order restricting how he conducts business in the future. The order also required the deletion/destruction of any personal information collected via the business.

Back in 2018 Nix was also grilled by the UK parliament’s DCMS committee — and in a second hearing he claimed Cambridge Analytica had licensed “millions of data points on American individuals from very large reputable data aggregators and data vendors such as Acxiom, Experian, Infogroup”, arguing the Facebook data had not been its “foundational data-set”.

It’s fair to say there are still many unanswered questions attached to the data misuse scandal. Last month, for example, the UK’s data watchdog — which raided Cambridge Analytica’s UK offices in 2018, seizing evidence, before going on to fine and then settle with Facebook (which did not admit any liability) over the scandal — said it would no longer be publishing a final report on its data analytics investigation.

Asked about the fate of the final report on Cambridge Analytica, an ICO spokesperson told us: “As part of the conclusion to our data analytics investigation we will be writing to the DCMS select committee to answer the outstanding questions from April 2019. We have committed to updating the select committee on our final findings but this will not be in the form of a further report.”

It’s not clear whether the DCMS committee — which has reformed with a different chair vs the one who in 2018 led the charge to dig into the Cambridge Analytica scandal as part of an enquiry into the impact of online disinformation — will publish the ICO’s written answers. Last year its final report called for Facebook’s business to be investigated over data protection and competition concerns.

You can read a TechCrunch interview with Nix here, from 2017 before the Facebook data scandal broke, in which he discusses how his company helped the Trump campaign.

#alexander-nix, #cambridge-analytica, #election-interference, #europe, #facebook, #microtargeting, #political-advertising, #privacy, #scl, #trump


What Can We Learn From Rival Political Ads in Florida?

The margin is expected to be razor thin between President Trump and Joe Biden in this hotly contested state, here’s how the campaigns’ recent television and radio ads there are characterizing their opponent.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #democratic-party, #florida, #hispanic-americans, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #republican-party, #social-security-us, #spanish-language, #trump-donald-j


Trump Engulfs Himself in Chaotic News Cycles as Election Day Nears

With early voting about to begin in some states, the days President Trump can afford to be consumed by crises of his own making are dwindling. But he has spent the last week in reaction mode.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #parscale-brad-1976, #political-advertising, #polls-and-public-opinion, #presidential-election-of-2020, #republican-party, #stepien-bill, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government, #woodward-bob


Montana’s Greatest Cultural Export: Inane Campaign Ads

The state perfected intensely folksy political advertising, a signifiers-over-substance approach that has pervaded the nation.

#gianforte-greg-1961, #montana, #political-advertising, #united-states-politics-and-government, #williams-kathleen-1961


How Trump’s Billion-Dollar Campaign Lost Its Cash Advantage

Five months ago, President Trump’s re-election campaign had a huge financial edge over Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s. The Times conducted an extensive review of how the Trump team spent lavishly to show how that advantage evaporated.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #campaign-finance, #dershowitz-alan-m, #parscale-brad-1976, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #republican-national-committee, #republican-party, #rollins-ed, #stepien-bill, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government


In Final Stretch, Biden Defends Lead Against Trump’s Onslaught

The president is attempting to overtake his Democratic challenger with a strategy of racial polarization in heavily white Midwestern states, even as Democrats make inroads in the Republican-leaning South and West.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #political-advertising, #polls-and-public-opinion, #presidential-election-of-2020, #stepien-bill, #trump-donald-j


Why Facebook’s Blocking of New Political Ads May Fall Short

There are still many ways that voter misinformation can spread on the social network, even as it moves to cut off new political ads on Oct. 27.

#computers-and-the-internet, #corporate-social-responsibility, #elections, #facebook-inc, #news-and-news-media, #online-advertising, #political-advertising, #politics-and-government, #presidential-election-of-2020, #rumors-and-misinformation, #social-media


Facebook’s plan to prevent election misinformation: Allowing it, mostly

A casually dressed man speaks in front a stylized padlock symbol.

Enlarge / Mark Zuckerberg speaking at Facebook’s F8 developer summit in 2018. (credit: JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Although it may feel like the campaigns have been going on forever and will continue forever, linear time inexorably marches on and we are, at last, exactly two months away from the 2020 US presidential election. The logistics alone are more complicated than ever this year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, and voters around the nation are likely to encounter complications of one kind or another.

Into this milieu we now add Facebook. The company has a bad track record of being used as a tool of misinformation and manipulation when it comes to elections. In a Facebook post today, company CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined a whole bunch of new steps the company will be taking to “protect our democracy” this year. Some of those measures, alas, feel like shutting the barn door when the horse left so long ago you forgot you ever even had one.

“This election is not going to be business as usual,” Zuckerberg began, accurately. Misinformation about voting, the election, and both candidates for the presidency is already rampant on Facebook and every other media platform, and it’s being spread by actors both foreign and domestic. So what is Facebook going to do about it? “Helping people register and vote, clearing up confusion about how this election will work, and taking steps to reduce the chances of violence and unrest,” Zuckerberg promised.

Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#advertising, #bad-ideas, #biden, #election, #facebook, #policy, #political-ads, #political-advertising, #politics, #presidential-campaign, #trump


Biden and Trump Unveil Dueling Law-and-Order Ads as Both Eye Swing States

The Biden ad, part of a $45 million one-week television and digital purchase that is by far the campaign’s largest to date, comes as the Democratic nominee pushes back against President Trump’s attacks.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #george-floyd-protests-2020, #online-advertising, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #trump-donald-j


Biden to Air Nationwide Law-and-Order Ad Condemning Rioters and Looters

The ad, part of a $45 million one-week television and digital purchase that is by far the campaign’s largest to date, comes as the Democratic nominee pushes back against President Trump’s attacks.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #george-floyd-protests-2020, #looting-crime, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #trump-donald-j


Joe Biden Campaign Offers Animal Crossing Yard Signs

Past candidates have tried to capitalize on popular video games, with mixed results. Will it be different this time, in the island paradises of the Nintendo Switch?

#advertising-and-marketing, #animal-crossing-new-horizons-video-game, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #computer-and-video-games, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #nintendo-co-ltd, #political-advertising, #politics-and-government, #presidential-election-of-2020, #social-media, #voting-and-voters


Rival Themes Emerge as Race Enters Final Weeks: Covid vs. Law and Order

The national political conventions over the last two weeks set the battle lines for the election’s remaining weeks. Joe Biden is focusing on President Trump’s virus management, while the president is hammering a law-and-order message.

#barrett-tom-1953, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #blake-jacob-august-23-2020-shooting, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #democratic-party, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #kenosha-wis, #police-reform, #political-advertising, #polls-and-public-opinion, #presidential-election-of-2020, #republican-party, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government


How Trump’s Convention Has Become a Crucial Play for the Suburbs

Conciliatory messages at the Republican convention were an acknowledgment by the president’s campaign that appealing to his right-wing base will not be enough to win re-election.

#political-advertising, #polls-and-public-opinion, #presidential-election-of-2020, #suburbs, #trump-donald-j


Trump Keeps Promoting a Drug Order That No One Has Seen

The president’s campaign has made his efforts to lower prescription drug prices a centerpiece of his re-election pitch, but the executive order remains unseen.

#drugs-pharmaceuticals, #executive-orders-and-memorandums, #international-trade-and-world-market, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #prices-fares-fees-and-rates, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government


Facebook Braces Itself for Trump to Cast Doubt on Election Results

The world’s biggest social network is working out what steps to take should President Trump use its platform to dispute the vote.

#absentee-voting, #computers-and-the-internet, #facebook-inc, #online-advertising, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #rumors-and-misinformation, #russian-interference-in-2016-us-elections-and-ties-to-trump-associates, #social-media, #trump-donald-j, #twitter, #youtube-com, #zuckerberg-mark-e


Trump Campaign Makes Huge Digital Ad Buy During Democratic Convention

The Trump campaign is trying to make sure that Mr. Trump’s message will be almost impossible to miss even during the Democrats’ biggest week.

#democratic-national-convention, #democratic-party, #online-advertising, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government


Trump Ads Attack Biden Through Deceptive Editing and Hyperbole

We reviewed all of the Trump campaign’s television ads since June. Two-thirds contained clearly misleading claims or videos.

#black-lives-matter-movement, #charter-schools, #federal-taxes-us, #police, #police-reform, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #tax-cuts-and-jobs-act-2017, #taxation, #united-states-politics-and-government


G.O.P.’s Raw Personal Attacks on Kamala Harris

‘Radical leftist’ or not progressive enough? In the hours after Ms. Harris’s announcement as Joe Biden’s vice president, the Trump campaign struggled to launch a clear attack on the Biden-Harris ticket.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #black-people, #harris-kamala-d, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #race-and-ethnicity, #trump-donald-j, #vice-presidents-and-vice-presidency-us


Google, Facebook and Others Form Tech Coalition to Secure U.S. Election

The move formalizes discussions that the companies and government agencies have been holding to fight disinformation on social media.

#cyberwarfare-and-defense, #facebook-inc, #federal-bureau-of-investigation, #fringe-groups-and-movements, #google-inc, #homeland-security-department, #microsoft-corp, #office-of-the-director-of-national-intelligence, #political-advertising, #presidential-election-of-2020, #rumors-and-misinformation, #social-media, #twitter


UK eyeing disclosure labels for online political campaigning

The UK government is considering changes to the law that would require online political campaign material to carry labels disclosing who is promoting and funding the messaging.

The proposal, which is being put through a public consultation until November, follows years of warnings over the lack of regulation around online political ads.

The government said the measures would mean voters get the same transparency from online campaign material as they do from leaflets posted through their letterbox.

A variety of platforms would be covered, per the current proposal, including social media and video sharing apps, general websites and apps, online ads, search engines, some forms of email, digital streaming services and podcasts.

“There is growing concern about the transparency of the sources of political campaigning online, which is starting to have a negative impact on trust and confidence in our elections and democracy,” the minister for the constitution & devolution, Chloe Smith, writes. “The Government committed in its last manifesto to protect the integrity of our democracy. That is why this Government will refresh our election laws so that citizens are empowered to make informed decisions in relation to election material online.”

Commenting in a press statement, she added: “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. 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.”

The government is calling for digital imprints to apply to all types of campaign content, regardless of the country it is being promoted from, and across a variety of digital platforms.

The requirement for imprints would also apply all year round, not only during election or referenda periods.

Imprints would be required to be displayed as part of the digital content — or where that’s not possible located in an “accessible alternative location linked to the material”, per the proposal.

The government argues that the requirement for digital imprints on political campaign material will help existing regulators better monitor who is promoting election material and enforce spending rules.

The UK’s 2016 EU referendum vote was mired by the Election Commission’s finding, after the fact of Brexit, of improper spending by the official Vote Leave campaign. The campaign channeled money to a Canadian data firm, AggregateIQ, to use for microtargeting political advertising on Facebook’s platform, via undeclared joint working with another Brexit campaign, BeLeave.

As we said at the time, more stringent regulations and transparency mechanisms were needed to prevent powerful social media platforms from quietly absorbing politically motivated money and messaging without recognizing any responsibility to disclose the transactions, let alone carry out due diligence on who or what may be funding the political spending.

But whether the government’s current proposal goes far enough in updating regulations looks questionable.

UK parliamentarians on the DCMS committee have been calling for “urgent action” to update national election laws for years — warning in a report back in 2018 that democratic integrity and trust in democratic processes are at risk from rampant data-fuelled digital manipulation.

Damian Collins, who was chair of the DCMS committee during a multi-month investigation into the impact of online disinformation, criticized the government for continued delay in taking action — also attacking the proposals for not going far enough.

“This is important but there have already been government consultations and multiple inquiries which have recommended transparency for who is running political ads online. We should legislate to make this happen now,” he said via Twitter, in response to news of the consultation.

“We need to go much further to protect our elections: Clamp down on deepfakes, foreign donation loopholes, and generally bring in line political ads with the standards of the rest of ad-land,” he added.

Political broadcasts on UK television and radio are very heavily regulated — with stringent limits placed on the length and frequency of such broadcasts. Paid political ads simply aren’t permitted there. But no such limits are being proposed for online political ads, where it’s trivially easy and cheap to deploy glossy video ads targeted at specific, niche groups of voters.

Meanwhile, some tech firms have voluntarily deleted this type of advertising from their platforms in response to concerns about how it can be used to hijack, manipulate and skew genuine democratic debate.

Last year some of Facebook’s own employees raised public concerns that its advanced targeting and behavioral tracking tools make it “hard for people in the electorate to participate in the public scrutiny that we’re saying comes along with political speech”, as congressman David Cicilline noted during the third meeting of the International Grand Committee on Disinformation.

Given all that, the UK government’s proposal for digital imprints on political ads looks like an enabling framework for digital campaigning — and one that risks glossing over the democratic threat inherent in allowing voters to be treated as just so many online consumers to be profiled and targeted in the same way as Internet users are spied upon to sell a holiday, fitness gear or a particular shampoo brand.

In 2018 the UK’s data watchdog called for an ethical pause on behavioral targeting of voters. In a report entitled Democracy Disrupted? Personal information and political influence, the regulator warned: “Without a high level of transparency – and therefore trust amongst citizens that their data is being used appropriately – we are at risk of developing a system of voter surveillance by default. This could have a damaging long-term effect on the fabric of our democracy and political life.”

Its warnings then fell on deaf ears — with the Conservative party going on to use some very similar looking data-grabbing campaign techniques for last year’s general election as were deployed to target voters during the Brexit referendum. (Vote Leave’s campaign director, Dominic Cummings, is now PM Boris Johnson’s chief advisor.) So, tl;dr, the UK’s governing party is fully in bed with big data for election campaigns.

(Not to mention flush with Russian money, per a more recent UK parliamentary committee report, which appears to have encouraged ministers to look the other way vis-a-vis democratic threats posed by foreign-funded online disOps.)

In a statement accompanying the government’s press release, Facebook’s head of UK public policy, Rebecca Stimson, sounded pleased with the government’s enabling approach to regulating political ads — taking the opportunity to promote steps it’s taken toward what she couched as “online transparency” by highlighting a platform requirement, introduced in the wake of the Brexit Facebook ad scandal, which means political ads on Facebook need to be badged with a ‘paid for by’ disclaimer (and retained in an ad archive for a set number of years).

“We look forward to further engaging with the government on this important consultation,” she added.

The UK proposal suggests two tests for determining when digital content should require an imprint: Either where it’s “intended to achieve the electoral success of registered political parties and candidates, or the material relates to a referendum”; or where paid and organic digital content is being promoted by either: Registered political parties, registered third party campaigners, candidates, holders of elected office and registered referendum campaigners.

For other types of campaigners the digital imprint requirement will only apply to paid digital content (i.e. ads). “Imprint rules will… not apply to unregistered campaigners that are not paying to promote content, so that members of the public remain able to exercise their right to free speech,” the government notes on that.

It looks as if the latter will open up a loophole for unofficial campaign content to slip under the imprint radar — i.e. if manufactured opinion content can be passed off as ‘individual’ speech. In much the same way as Russia was able to pass off disinformation targeting the US election by seeding it through a network of fake profiles controlled by its bot agents.

Platforms remain terrible at identifying and labelling bots, and continue to be allowed to choose their own adventure when it comes to making fake account disclosures. So dark political messaging that’s natively hidden from regulatory oversight will continue to flourish without far closer regulation of these tech giants.

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