Big Tech platforms could face new major limits on targeted political ads

Facebook and Google could be significantly restricted from targeting people with political ads ahead of the 2024 European Parliament elections, according to a draft Parliament report released Wednesday.

Lead MEP, Renew’s Anna Donáth of Hungary, proposed to ban online platforms from displaying political ads based on people’s profiling and tracking on the internet. Political parties could soon only target voters via online ads based on data they themselves choose to share, including their gender, age, location and language.

The move could have a significant effect on online political advertising, where politicians and foreign actors alike have in past years been able to display paid-for political messages to voters based on their behaviors and troves of online personal informations. The manipulation of voters through microtargeting was at the heart of the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018.

Proposed by the European Commission in November 2021, the regulation on the transparency and targeting of political advertising aims to protect elections from undisclosed political ads and curb misuse of social media at notably critical times like elections and referendums. Parliament and the Council of the EU are currently making changes to the Commission’s draft. The aim is to have the rules ready ahead of the European elections in 2024.

As part of the civil liberties committee, Donáth, who is working alongside the other lead lawmaker Sandro Gozi (Renew, France), has exclusive competence over the parts of the political ads regulation related to online privacy.

The Hungarian politician also wants regulators overseeing the privacy rules to be fully independent from both the private sector and national governments.