Regulating online poll ads-A A +A
Saturday, February 2, 2013
YOU must love the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for finally acknowledging online as a medium for electoral debate and campaigning, but you must hate it for not understanding digital platforms more.
Including online as regulated campaign space without adequate knowledge of the medium could only result in the failure of all parties to abide by the law.
The authors of the rules and regulations for the Fair Election Act who included the digital platform may not have heard of Google AdWord, AdSense and content discovery tools that promote information online. If they had, they would know that regulating online advertisements might be more complicated than counting ad sizes and frequency of publication.
For the May 13, 2013 elections, the poll body, for the first time, included websites and blogs as regulated campaign space. Comelec Resolution 9615 provides for, among others, website ad sizes and types, how often the ads should appear and the reporting to the Comelec of such ad placements.
“Said online advertisement...shall not be published more than three times a week per website during the campaign period,” it said. Website owners have to submit to the Comelec a certified true copy of its logs “for the review and verification.”
Direct ad placements on websites may be counted and controlled, but not advertisements that are placed through third-party networks that are now the more popular and effective ways of online promotions.
Google has a tool called AdWords that allows the public to put out advertisements on its network of partner websites. News websites like Sun.Star’s www.sunstar.com.ph is a Google partner through AdSense, a program that allows websites to carry Google AdWord clients.
Candidate A may decide to post Google ads through AdWords. The ad appears on the Sun.Star website through the AdSense program. The payment goes to Google, with a share later to be given to the website. The website owner has no control over ad sizes and number of times candidate A’s ads would appear. The control rests on candidate A or the one placing the ad.
The same goes for Facebook ad placements. Facebook, the social networking site, accepts text ads but with limits on the number of characters. The Comelec requirement for the ad sponsor to put the text “political advertisements paid by,” followed by name of the sponsor, will use up the bulk of characters.
Content discovery is another way of advertising a candidate’s campaign pitch online. A link to a website page containing a candidate’s record may be promoted on the Sun.Star website through a content discovery platform like Outbrain. Again, control rests on the advertiser and payment and logs are primarily with the providers.
The Comelec had said it would seek the support of experts in monitoring online political ads since the medium is new to them. But it could no longer ignore digital platforms, thus the inclusion of online in its regulations.
Consider it a mere first step for the Comelec because it is unlikely it could implement such rules for the coming elections.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 03, 2013.