On 15 June, the UK government published a response to its consultation on introducing a requirement to include a “digital imprint” (i.e. the name and address of the promoter of the ad) on online political ads.
Currently, requirements to disclose the name and address of the promoter of the ad only apply to printed election ads (not online ads). However, in 2019, the UK government committed to introducing disclosure requirements for digital election and referendum ads, and in 2020 they launched a consultation on how the new requirements should work in practice. The results of that consultation have now been published.
The consultation response highlights that under the new regime:
- All paid for electronic material will require an imprint, regardless of who promoted it. This includes electronic material that could reasonably be regarded as seeking to influence any section of the public to give support to, or withhold support from, a registered political party, holder of elected office, candidate or future candidate, or the holding of, or particular outcome in, a referendum in at least a part of the UK.
- Specified political entities (including registered political parties, candidates, future candidates, recognised third-party campaigners, referendum campaigners, holders of elected office and recall petition campaigners),or anyone acting on their behalf, will also be required to include an imprint on other unpaid/organic electronic material if it can reasonably be regarded as digital election or referendum material.
- Only the promoter or person or organisation on behalf of whom the material is promoted will be legally responsible for ensuring that a digital imprint is included on the ad. Digital platforms will not be liable.
- The digital imprints regime will apply all year round, not just during specified campaign periods.
The digital imprints regime is expected to be introduced as part of the government’s proposed Electoral Integrity Bill.