Towards Unfair Political Practices Law: Learning lessons from the regulation of unfair commercial practices for online political advertising
Online political advertising operates in a tense forcefield between political and commercial elements and thus presents regulators with a difficult conundrum: because online political advertising is political rather than commercial speech, it is destined to follow a different regulatory tradition than commercial advertising. And yet many of the tools used, players involved and concerns triggered by modern online political advertising strategies very much resemble the tools, players and concerns in online commercial targeting. Commercial advertising is subject to consumer law and unfair advertising regulation, including rules about unfair commercial practices. Unfair commercial practices law and other rules about commercial advertising, however, are explicitly not applicable to forms of non-commercial political or ideological advertising. An important reason why this is so is the different level of protection of political and commercial speech under fundamental rights law standards. And yet with the ongoing commercial turn in advertising, the traditional division between forms of commercial and political advertising is no longer that self-evident. Also, it cannot be denied that commercial advertising law has a long tradition of thinking of where and how to draw the line between lawful advertising and unlawful persuasion through withholding or misleading consumers about the information they need to take informed decisions, or abusing superior knowledge, exerting undue psychological pressure and engaging in other forms of unfair behaviour. The question this article explores is whether there are lessons to be learned from the regulation of commercial advertising for the pending initiatives at the national and the European level to regulate online political advertising, and online political targeting in specific.
online and commercial political targeting
unfair commercial practices