Information society services, i.e. Part 4 of the Electoral Reform Bill 2022 will place obligations on online platforms with regard to the purchase for placement, display, promotion or disemination of online political advertisements during electoral periods.
Electoral Reform Bill 2022 (Part 4 - sections 117 to 139 inclusive)
Part 4 of the Electoral Reform Bill 2022 provides a regulatory framework to ensure there is transparency in respect of online political advertisements which are purchased for placement, display, promotion or dissemination during electoral periods. During electoral periods, the provisions of Part 4 require online political advertisements to be clearly labelled as ‘political adverts’ and to be accompanied by a transparency notice setting out specified information for the recipients of such advertisements.
The provisions of Part 4 provide that online platforms shall take measures to verify the identity and the address of the buyers of online political advertisements, shall request information and documents for that purpose and shall keep records of the measures applied and information, documents or records obtained by it. Where an online platform cannot verify the identity and address of the buyer of an online political advertisement, it shall not place, display, promote or disseminate the advertisement on its platform.
In addition, Part 4 provides that the buyers of online political advertisements shall provide the necessary information and documents to online platforms and shall comply with reasonable requests from online platforms for additional information and documents as may be required. The buyer of an online political advertisement shall also be required to provide a written statement, accompanied by a statutory declaration, to the relevant online platform confirming the source of funds behind the advertisement. Where a buyer decides not to provide
such information and documents to an online platform, the buyer shall confirm that decision in writing to the online platform.
The Electoral Commission, which is to be estabished under Part 2 of the Bill, shall have a wide range of functions and powers to enable it to monitor online political advertisements, online platforms and the buyers of online political advertisements, to encourage compliance (which may include the publication of notices containing practical guidance), to carry out investigations, to publish reports and to enforce the provisions of Part
4. The Electoral Commission may co-operate and collaborate with other statutory authorities whether in the State or elsewhere in connection with online political advertising and related matters.
Key definitions in respect of Part 4 are set out in section 117 of the Bill although section 2 also contains a number of definitions that are common to both Part 4 and to the Bill in its entirety. In this context, the definitions in secton 2 of the Bill which are common to Part 4 include: -
• “Act of 1992”
• “Act of 1993”
• “Act of 1994”
• “Act of 1997”
• “Act of 2001”
• “Act of 2014”
• “chief executive”
• “Dáil election”
• “European election”
• “European political party”
• “local election”
• “presidential election”
• “Regulation (EU, Euratom) No. 1141/2014”
• “Seanad election”