Ethics watchdog SIPO warn about online ads and spending

Ethics watchdog SIPO warn about online ads and spending
Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless who is sponsoring the Bill

The State’s ethics watchdog has again called for tighter laws around political spending, and has warned that there are currently no limits imposed on how much online advertising a third party can buy during a referendum.

Sherry Perrault, Head of Ethics and Lobbying Regulation at the Standards In Public Office Commission (SIPO), told the Oireachtas Communications Committee that it would welcome measures that would ensure greater transparency around expenditure regarding the sources of advertising and the funding for same, particularly if these ads are originating and are being funded by parties outside of the State.

Ms Perrault appeared before the Committee to discuss the Online Advertising and Social Media (Transparency) Bill, which is being sponsored by Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless.

She said SIPO wants the language defining what constitutes ‘political purposes’ in the bill to align with the meaning as set out in existing legislation such as the Electoral Act.

Earlier this year, the SIPO Annual Report warned of the potential for foreign actors to use online advertising to influence Irish elections and referendums due to a lack of spending limits, a caution Ms Perrault repeated in the meeting with the committee.

We do have limits in place for an election period, and people who participate as a candidate in an election must disclose their election expenses and are subject to thresholds that they must adhere to, and there are offences for breaching that.

“At a referendum there are no expenditure limits and so any third party, any political party can engage in campaigning in a referendum and there’s absolutely nothing in terms of disclosure or expenditure limits that they must adhere to,” she said.

Karen White, Twitter’s Director of Public Policy in Europe also appeared before the committee and said the company supported the bill’s aims.

More on this topic

Councillors secretly filmed by RTÉ found to have contravened ethics lawsCouncillors secretly filmed by RTÉ found to have contravened ethics laws

Political parties shared total of €6m in state funding in 2017Political parties shared total of €6m in state funding in 2017


More in this Section

Gardaí talk to three people as investigation into Cork father set on fire continuesGardaí talk to three people as investigation into Cork father set on fire continues

Garda tells inquest he shot Mark Hennessy as he believed he was about to slit Jastine Valdez's throatGarda tells inquest he shot Mark Hennessy as he believed he was about to slit Jastine Valdez's throat

Michael McGrath: Fianna Fáil not kicking pension decisions down the roadMichael McGrath: Fianna Fáil not kicking pension decisions down the road

Cork-based cybersecurity firm warn of 300% increase in cyber attacks from Iran Cork-based cybersecurity firm warn of 300% increase in cyber attacks from Iran


Lifestyle

Dr Sarah Miller is the CEO of Dublin’s Rediscovery Centre, the national centre for the Circular Economy in Ireland. She has a degree in Biotechnology and a PHD in Environmental Science in Waste Conversion Technologies.‘We have to give people positive messages’

When I was pregnant with Joan, I knew she was a girl. We didn’t find out the gender of the baby, but I just knew. Or else, I so badly wanted a girl, I convinced myself that is exactly what we were having.Mum's the Word: I have a confession: I never wanted sons. I wanted daughters

What is it about the teenage years that are so problematic for families? Why does the teenage soul rage against the machine of the adult world?Learning Points: It’s not about the phone, it’s about you and your teen

Judy Collins is 80, and still touring. As she gets ready to return to Ireland, she tells Ellie O’Byrne about the songs that have mattered most in her incredible 60-year career.The songs that matter most to Judy Collins from her 60-year career

More From The Irish Examiner