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EU to limit political ads, ban use of certain personal info

BRUSSELS (AP) — Concerned by the misuse of political advertising to undermine elections, the European Union on Thursday unveiled plans to help people better understand when they are seeing such ads online and who is responsible for them.

The proposals, aimed at ensuring fair and transparent polls or referendums, would also ban political targeting and “amplification techniques” used to reach a wider audience if they use sensitive personal data like ethnic origin, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation without a citizen’s permission.

“Digital advertising for political purposes is becoming an unchecked race of dirty and opaque methods,” European Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova said. “A myriad of data analytics and communication firms work daily with our data to try to figure out the best way to convince us to buy something or vote for someone or not to vote at all.“

She said people “must know why they are seeing an ad, who paid for it, how much, what micro-targeting criteria were used. New technologies should be tools for emancipation, not for manipulation.“

The commission, the EU’s executive branch, hopes that the 27 member countries and the European Parliament will have debated and endorsed the proposals in national law by 2023, in time for Europe-wide elections the following year.
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