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Facebook “concerned” about plans to regulate online political advertising in Ireland

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FACEBOOK TODAY WILL NOTIFY an Oireachtas Committee that it has “concerns” about proposed electoral reform laws in Ireland that would regulate political advertising on the Internet.

The social media giant will also tell TDs and Senators that if the government pushes these reforms, it could put platforms like Facebook in the “undesirable and avoidable position” of breaking between violating Irish law or violating EU law. Have to choose right.

Twitter, meanwhile, will tell the committee that there is a “distant chance” that the proposed reforms around social media advertising could negatively impact the daily campaign of nonprofits and NGOs.

In January the government published the general scheme of the Electoral Reform Act.

The bill provides for the establishment of a statutory, independent electoral commission for Ireland.

It would also regulate online political advertising in the run-up to election rallies and modernize the election registration process.

In the general scheme of the draft law, it defines an online political advertisement as “any form of communication in a digital format Commissioner for political purposes” displayed or advertised on an online platform for which the platform charges money.

It would be necessary to include a “transparency notice” with the ad, stating who paid for the ad, how someone was contacted with the ad, and the amount paid. The online platforms are responsible for ensuring that this information is made available for the advertisements they run on their websites.

The Oireachtas Joint Housing, Local Government and Heritage Committee is pre-legislating on the bill and will hear representatives from Facebook and Twitter on the matter today.

In his opening address to the committee, Facebook Ireland’s head of public policy, Dualta Ó Broin, will say that the social media company analyzed the general scheme of the electoral reform law “with great interest, but sometimes with some concern”.

“With regard to the specific wording of the bill, it seems appropriate to start with the definition of a political advertisement,” Broin will say. “Facebook recommends a more objective definition of online political advertising.

“Legislation should at least take into account what online intermediaries like Facebook can and cannot do. In short, we can tell if an ad contains specific content, but we cannot tell what an individual’s intent is in placing an ad. The reference to “political purposes” should be replaced by a far more objective test. “

Ó Broin will also say that Facebook has “a wide range of concerns” about transparency requirements.

These include “privacy concerns” about the information about an individual that is about to be disclosed and the impact of “disclosing specific micro-targeting criteria”.

We also have practical concerns about the adequacy of online platforms collecting information about the amount spent on “content creation” and the requirements for advertisers to specify an end date for a campaign. Finally, we have concerns about the reporting requirements set out in this section and we ask whether they are proportionate or actually necessary in all circumstances.

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Both Twitter and Facebook will say they welcome the government’s reform move to ensure the integrity and transparency of the elections.

In the case of Twitter, it will say that its interactions with the UK Electoral Commission were “positive” and that it would work with its Irish equivalent once it was formed.

It will say that it already bans political advertising based on the belief that “political message reach should be earned, not bought”.

Twitter will also say that anti-disinformation is being used on its platform in elections such as: B. Attempts to mislead about an election result or to encourage suppression or intimidation of voters.

It will also say that its platform has had a positive effect in the run-up to the elections.

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“During the Irish general election in 2020, for example, we saw a consistently high level of positive and healthy political debate on Twitter between candidates, parties, voters, journalists, civil society groups and interested election observers,” Twitter will say.

Regarding the Electoral Reform Act, Twitter will say that the definition of “political purpose” provided in the legislation has a slim chance of negatively affecting nonprofit organizations or NGOs that want to advertise on online platforms.

It says: “It would be helpful if this were further clarified. We respectfully point out that such transport categories should not be subject to the requirements of the draft law. “

Both Twitter and Facebook will raise concerns about efforts to regulate online platforms at both national and European levels.

Twitter will call for a “coherent set of standards at European level”, otherwise “there is a risk of building virtual walls between our digital communities”.

Facebook will say that the passage of the Electoral Reform Act will create “a lack of alignment” between Irish rules and EU rules.

“As far as we know, the Commission intends to publish a legislative proposal for political advertising within the next six months,” its head of politics Ó Broin will say.

“There is a very real possibility that online platforms will be subject to two inconsistent regulatory systems and get into the undesirable (and avoidable) situation of having to decide whether to violate Irish law or EU law.”

The Oireachtas Committee will begin its hearing in the Dáil Chamber at 9.30 a.m. this morning.

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