IPA responds to DCMS Interim Report on Fake News

The IPA has welcomed the DCMS Select Committee’s Interim Report into Disinformation and Fake News saying that while it welcomes some of the report’s recommendations, it is disappointed that those regarding micro-targeting have not gone far enough. It is seeking further meetings with the Government and the Electoral Commission.

As included in the IPA's written submission to the DCMS, the full spectrum of the internet’s effect on political systems is beyond the IPA's purview. However, under one of the main terms of its Chartered Status, it is the IPA’s duty “to advance the theory and practice of advertising, media and marketing communications in all its aspects for the benefit of the public.”

We have therefore focussed our response to the interim recommendations surrounding changing the rules for political campaigning.

Says Sarah Golding, IPA President and CEO of The&Partnership: “We naturally welcome the recommendation we proposed. There should be a public register for political advertising, requiring all political advertising work to be listed for public display so that, even if work is not requiring regulation, it is accountable and transparent for all to see.

"We stand ready to support this as the IPA and would recommend the involvement of the Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards (JICWEBS) of which we are one of four industry body founding members. We are clearly disappointed that the ban on micro-targeted political advertising is limited to one form of targeting (‘lookalike audiences’ where users have requested not to see political ads) on just one platform (Facebook). Targeting methodologies evolve, as does the landscape of platforms, we therefore believe it requires a universal, principles-based approach.

“We do, however, support the recommendation that “a minimum limit for the number of voters sent individual political messages should be agreed, at a national level.

“A register of all political ads goes a long way to drive transparency and accountability but without the tandem ban on political ad microtargeting, the danger is such a register could be overwhelmed by sheer volumes generated by said microtargeting. For example, the Trump 2016 US Presidential Campaign used 5.9 million different versions of ads. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further with a view to developing a solution that is future-proofed against trends towards extreme personalised political ad messaging at industrial scale.

“We would also welcome the opportunity to continue discussing this issue and also offer our services to the Electoral Commission who have been tasked with establishing “a code for advertising through social media during election periods, giving consideration to whether such activity should be restricted during the regulated period, to political organisations or campaigns that have registered with the Commission.”

The IPA response follows our statement we published on the publication of the Facebook ads run by Aggregate IQ on behalf of Vote Leave during the Brexit campaign, published last week (26 July) by UK parliament as part of its inquiry into Fake News.

We have also met with the Electoral Commission, and have submitted evidence to both the DCMS Select Committee Inquiry into Fake News and to the House of Lords’ inquiry into regulation of the internet.

Last updated 21 January 2022