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Google Says EU Law on Political Ads Must Not Undermine Transparency

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Welcoming the European Union’s (EU) proposals to curb the misuse of political advertising to undermine elections, Google has said that it is critical that the upcoming law clarifies which actors and what types of content are subject to the obligations regarding political advertising, giving clear examples of what would or would not be in scope.

The EU proposals, laid out late on Thursday, would also ban political targeting and AI/ML techniques used to reach more and more people.

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Political parties, organizations, and companies would face fines if they failed to comply.

Matt Brittin, President of Google Europe, Middle East, and Africa, said in a blog post that this is a complex field, requiring a balance between minimizing misinformation and protecting legitimate political expression.

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“Without clear definitions, different companies will adopt inconsistent and conflicting policies, making for confusion for advertisers and undermining transparency for citizens,” he argued.

“The current text could also inadvertently impact a wider range of ads than intended, for example, sweeping in ads from NGOs on issues of public concern or from private citizens speaking out about social questions,” Brittin added.

Google was one of the original signatories of the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation.

According to European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova, people must know why they are seeing an ad, who paid for it, how much, and what micro-targeting criteria were used.

“New technologies should be tools for emancipation, not for manipulation,” she said in a statement.

The tech giant said that advertiser “self-declaration” — whereby political advertisers verify their identities and declare when they are running political ads — would have advertisers due to their share to contribute to transparency, making the law work better in practice.

“Continuing discussions with stakeholders will help regulation react to changing contexts or emerging trends that might affect definitions, regulatory provisions or enforcement,” Google said.

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