IPA responds to House of Lords’ inquiry into internet regulation

The IPA has submitted its response to the House of Lords’ inquiry into whether the regulation of the internet should be improved, and whether a new regulatory framework for the internet is necessary or whether the general law of the UK is adequate.

Within its submission, the IPA states its belief that the internet has proved itself to be a powerfully influential and potent business and personal tool. Furthermore, that the use and abuse of the internet, especially social media, are beginning to have a profound effect on political systems around the world, including western liberal democracies like the UK.

Says Paul Bainsfair, Director General, IPA: “The unprecedented pace of the internet’s growth has meant its influence and effects on society are still not fully known or understood. It is a complex and ever-evolving channel, especially with the unchecked rise of social media. As with all things, with great power comes great responsibility."

As such, it makes clear its two desired outcomes regarding the inquiry into internet regulation:

1) Continuing support for the industry’s self-regulatory system and its current initiatives

The IPA supports the same rules and self-regulations for the internet as it does for offline media: that businesses take responsibility for delivering parity of brand safe content for advertising.

It also supports self-regulation for ad-funded businesses by cross-industry bodies, e.g. JICWEBS – of which it is proud to be a founding member, and not by individual businesses or the platforms themselves.

And it has noted the welcome and support the importance placed on self-regulation by the House of Lords’ Communication Committee on “UK advertising in a digital age (published 27th March 2018)”.      

“It is in the interests of the whole industry to take greater steps to self-regulate through independent third parties such as JICWEBS. We think that the largest industry bodies should commit to signing up fully to JICWEBS. We recommend that the industry should give these bodies greater powers to create and enforce rules establishing robust industry standards on measuring effectiveness and third-party verification. If businesses fail to do so, the Government should propose legislation to regulate digital advertising.”

2) Specific recommendations regarding the use of micro-targeted political advertising online

The IPA’s submission also covers political advertising rules under our responsibilities as a body Incorporated by Royal Charter where we have a duty to “advance the theory and practice of advertising, media and marketing communications in all its aspects for the benefit of the public.”

Due to the absence of self-regulation on political advertising, which the IPA believes can render ephemeral micro-targeted political advertising opaque and unaccountable, it has therefore made two recommendations:

  • a moratorium on micro-targeted political advertising online until we can agree a minimum limit for numbers of voters sent individual political messages.
  • a public register for political advertising. This register would require all political advertising creative work to be listed for public display so that messaging, for as long as it is not regulated, is transparent and accountable, and available to all members of the public to see should they wish.  

The IPA has also contacted The Electoral Commission and Party Chairs of the main politcal parties to begin exploratory discussions on this issue.



The IPA’s submission supports the points made by The Advertising Association submission on this topic – of which it is a tripartite member, and its previous response to The Government’s Digital submission (November 2017).

Read further information about the inquiry.

Last updated 21 January 2022