Don’t make platforms beasts of burden, says MEP Adam Bielan (ECR)

According to the ECR Group, the current draft of new rules on political advertising, which will be voted on tomorrow in the European Parliament, could restrict freedom of expression by shifting too much of the decision-making responsibility over to providers of advertising services and online platforms. ECR shadow rapporteur Adam Bielan has tabled amendments to improve the text.

The conservative MEP highlighted transparency and data protection as extremely important concerns. But in a context where many citizens are already concerned about platforms having too much power, it makes no sense to give these platforms even more by asking them to assess which ads are political or not and, therefore, increasing their influence over the removal of political advertising.

During today’s debate, Bielan said:

“I’ve heard plenty about transparency and the need to better protect citizens from foreign actors that might interfere in elections. And I, of course, agree with these points. Citizens have the right to know who the sponsors of political advertising are and what the details of this advertising are.”

However, Bielan noted that one has to keep an eye on the practical feasibility:

“Transparency does not mean creating a framework which incentivises big online platforms to remove content out of fear of liability. Neither does it mean asking platforms to decide which ads are political or not, while complaining that they have too much power.”

The aim of the new rules is to protect electoral processes from foreign influence and to ensure the smooth running of elections. Currently, there is no EU-wide definition of political advertising. The new regulation defines it as a message likely to influence voting behaviour or the outcome of an election, referendum, legislative or regulatory procedure.

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