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Digital Life

Regulars | By Matthew Webster | August Issue

Time to lasso the political Wild West

The recent general election, despite the ensuing confusion, highlighted one thing with great clarity: the rules relating to online political advertising need bringing into the 21st century. Actually, they need more than updating; they need creating – almost no rules exist at the moment. It’s the Wild West out there, and politicians have been striding through loopholes with a coach and horses, if I may mix a few pre-digital metaphors. As things stand, all election costs must be reported, with strict limits on how much may be spent in any one constituency (about £15,000), and political advertising on radio and television is forbidden. However, none of this applies to online activities, apart from reporting the cost. Postings on Facebook look and smell like TV adverts, but dodge the broadcast ban. As there is no limit on national spending, the parties claim them as national, not local, and avoid the fiscal...

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