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As Europe prepares for its next election cycle in 2024, it’s also gearing up some brand-new regulations for social media advertisements. The intentions are certainly good: to ensure that political ads on social media are as transparent and factual as possible. Europe doesn’t want a repeat of the Brexit vote in the UK, when many of the ads in support of Brexit were allegedly misleading and based on half-truths at best.
Right now, the regulations are still in the process of being finalized. But, based on what we know already, we can predict a few important changes.
Clear labels for each ad
For one, we can expect a sort of “warning label” placed on each advertisement that appears on social media. This label will include facts such as the specific election or referendum it was created for, the name of the sponsor or buyer of the ad, and other relevant information that can help to determine the bias of the ad. Presumably, if people know what angle or bias each ad has, they will be better prepared to make an informed judgment when it comes to voting.
A central repository for all ads
In addition, there is likely to be some sort of central repository, where all ads from all politicians and all political parties are stored and organized. That will make it much easier to take a big picture view of who’s influencing an election and why. It will also create a much easier data source for academics, researchers, and third-party groups to analyze.
Restrictions on the use of politically-sensitive information
There will likely also be more safeguards put into place when it comes to politically-sensitive personal information. This includes information like racial or ethnic identity, religious persuasion, or sexual orientation. Presumably, this will keep politicians away from race-baiting ads that play to fears about certain racial or immigrant groups. And it will keep them from pandering to certain communities. Just keep in mind – there won’t be a ban on this type of content, just a ban on using this information to “target” users on social media.
And what about artificial intelligence?
One interesting factor to keep in mind is a possible regulation of the use of artificial intelligence to create new advertisements. This would have been unheard of just six months ago, but the rapid rise to prominence of ChatGPT has bubbled this issue to the surface. Already, we’ve seen Europeans attempt to limit the spread of ChatGPT, and so an attempt to limit ChatGPT in the political arena might be next. Some have suggested that an entirely new term – “artificial people” – might be used to refer to AI-powered bots performing certain types of activities online.
Put it all together, and it sounds like a relatively comprehensive attempt to improve the transparency, accuracy and veracity of political advertising on social media. In fact, it’s not out of the question that similar regulations might be coming to the U.S. soon. The hope, of course, is that such regulations won’t be too burdensome or cumbersome. Getting regulation right is often harder than it sounds, simply due to the potential for unforeseen consequences.