• Denise Paglinawan

Elections Canada releases guidelines for online political ads


A signage points to a temporary Elections Canada office (Credit: Elections Canada)

Failure to comply with the new registry requirements for political ads online may result in penalties, Elections Canada has warned online platforms and advertisers on Wednesday.


The new guidelines require online platforms that display election ads before and during election period to create a digital registry of all regulated ads along with the name of the person who authorized the ad. The registry should be easily accessible via a visible link on the platform.


These requirements apply to any platform that meets the established visit thresholds, as well as partner sites, where election ads are displayed whether the ad space was sold directly or indirectly, said Elections Canada.


Platforms that decide not to sell space for election ads will still have to monitor all ads that appear on the website or app, the agency added. “If regulated ads appear without being included in a registry, an investigation and even prosecution could take place,” it stated.


In March, Google announced that it will ban political advertising on its platforms ahead of federal elections after Canada introduced the new transparency rules.


"For the duration of the 2019 federal election campaign, Google will not accept advertising regulated by Bill C-76," Colin McKay, Google Canada's head of public policy, wrote in a statement.


"We're focusing our efforts on supporting Canadian news literacy programs and connecting people to useful and relevant election-related information."


The guidelines were issued to help online platforms such as Facebook and Google follow new political advertising rules under recent changes to the Canada Elections Act which will come in effect in June, said Elections Canada.


"We're outlining new requirements for digital platforms and advertisers under the [Canada Elections] Act, which include a greater degree of transparency,” said chief electoral officer Stéphane Perrault in a statement.


The law also requires political entities, including third parties, to provide online platforms with information necessary to maintain a registry.


Text messages, e-mails, private messages, editorials, articles and posts on a political entity's own website, including videos posted on free websites, are not subject to the ad registry requirements. User-generated content posted for free on social media are also clear from the registry rules.


"The digital landscape is constantly evolving, and it will be important for the law to keep pace with change,” said Perrault.


"We will assess what happens during the election, and if we see areas where the [Canada Elections] Act could be improved, we will make recommendations in our post-election report to parliament."

© Denise Paglinawan 2020

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