An international “grand committee” of legislators on Thursday called for an end to electoral advertising with false or misleading content disseminated over the Internet using ‘microtargeting’ techniques until a regulation is agreed.
The committee focused on disinformation, met in Dublin to hear testimonies from Facebook, Twitter and Google, the Alphabet group, and other experts on cyberattacks, hate speech and interference in electoral processes. Legislators from Australia, Finland, Estonia, Georgia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States attended the meeting.
The committee’s inaugural session held a year ago in London, included an empty chair for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg after he refused to submit to participants’ questions.
Facebook has been in the spotlight in recent weeks for its decision not to control politicians’ ads, especially after its rival, Twitter, announced last month that it would ban all political advertising.
Zuckerberg has defended this position, arguing that the company does not want to override the political discourse.
Politicians can target specific groups of voters through social networks based on user data such as location, age, and interests, a practice is known as ‘microtargeting’ that their detractors fear could spread misinformation and manipulation among certain population groups, ultimately reducing voter participation.
At a conference held on Thursday in Lisbon, Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for Competition, said: “If it all comes down to your channel of information on Facebook, between you and Facebook, and their ‘microtargeting’ of who you are, that is no longer democracy.