Digital advertising has obscured who is behind an
ad, how much the ad costs and whose money is
paying for the ad. In too many countries, virtually
any internet user with a credit card can pay to promote
political content and circumvent laws. Worse,
domestic or foreign actors can invest financial resources
in inauthentic behaviour – through bots or
fake accounts – to amplify divisive political messages
or advance illegitimate interests.
The finance of online political advertising is hard to
scrutinise. In the absence of regulation advertising
volumes might be unlimited, allowing opaque cash
to flow into digital spending.
Parties and candidates can micro target their
online ads to very narrow groups of voters, excluding
others from public deliberation. The same ads
can spread untruths and misinformation. This use
of digital ads weakens the accountability of politicians
and erodes the legitimacy of power.

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