Online political advertising and disinformation during elections: Regulatory framework in the EU and Member States

Author: Miikka Hiltunen

Date: August 2021

Online political advertising and its implications for liberal democracies have become a topic of considerable scholarly and regulatory interest in recent years. The report is guided by the question of how online political advertising is regulated in Europe, especially in the context of elections but also more generally. Its aim is to map the existing, and to some extent upcoming, regulatory framework of online political advertising in the EU and in selected Member states of Germany, France, Spain, Ireland and Poland. After a brief analysis of key concepts, the report maps the EU regulation of data protection and electronic commerce, and other complementary regulation within the Union’s competence. Lastly, the report contains the five case studies of Member State election and online media law. While the relevant EU law is in flux with new regulatory initiatives being processed in the fields of data protection, e-commerce and artificial intelligence, uncertainties also remain concerning the interpretation of existing laws, for instance, on data protection obligations and intermediary liability. In turn, the addressed Member States currently lack proper electoral and media law framework that would systematically take into account the deployment of online services in the dissemination of election propaganda. However, there is increasing attention paid to online services by national regulators that focuses primarily on information disseminated via the largest online services.