Sunday 22 September 2019

Election spending to be monitored by new commission

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Stock picture
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

A planned electoral commission will take charge of monitoring election spending and is expected to set standards for online political advertising.

A long-mooted overhaul of how elections are run in this country will not be completed in time for the upcoming round of local and European elections and referendums.

An electoral commission would likely have oversight on political ads to ensure transparency but is unlikely to have a policing role. Separate work is under way, led by the Taoiseach's department, to determine how online advertising can be monitored. This work follows concern from the EU that the May elections may be open to online influence and interference.

The Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland and the Broadcasting Authority are among the suggestions as to who could have the role of policing online spending.

The issue of foreign political spending in Irish referendums was highlighted during the recent campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Junior Minister John Paul Phelan said he did not believe in banning items but it was necessary that all ads clearly stated who paid for them. "It's up to the public then to make their own view," he said.

Social media companies are not living up to their responsibility to protect users' data and how it is used to target people with advertising, he said.

It is expected the commission will subsume many of the powers of the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) and will also act as a referendum commission.

It will also have new powers to assess the performance of returning officers and to conduct research on elections.

Irish Independent

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