Over the last couple of years, the importance of digital political advertising has grown substantially. While the discussion on the transparency of digital political advertising is a prominent topic at the EU level, in the Czech debate on digital threats to democracy it is largely missing from the picture. This is despite the fact that digital political (and issue-based) advertising on Facebook, Google, Twitter or Seznam.cz is becoming increasingly relevant and used for spreading narratives by the Czech political advertisers. In the past, Czechia made several important steps to increase transparency in political campaigning and financing of political parties, however, the digital political advertising represents a blind spot in the debate. In this context, it is even more important to follow, analyse and monitor the implementation of the regulatory framework agreed at the EU level between the European Commission and the social media platforms called the “Code of Practice on Disinformation” (CoP).
Assessed against the background of the electoral campaign for the European Parliament in 2019 in Czechia, the EU´s CoP meant a significant first step towards more transparency in digital political advertising, especially thanks to the introduction of the ad libraries, but also other related measures aimed to empower and better inform the user (and potential voter) about labelling of ads, microtargeting or providing more information about the digital political advertising to the research community. Despite this, the research shows that there are some systemic a well as partial problems relevant for individual social media platforms.
The main goal of the research is therefore to provide feedback on the implementation of the Code of Practice in the Czech legislative and electoral context, show some local specifics of the phenomenon in Czechia and in the end also give concrete solutions and recommendations to the Czech and EU decision-makers about how to move the debate on future regulation of the digital political advertising forward on both the national as well as the EU level.
The research and publication of this paper were supported through the project ‘Virtual Insanity: The need for transparency in digital political advertising’. This paper represents one of three case studies, with the other two conducted in Italy and the Netherlands. This project is funded by Civitates and led by the European Partnership for Democracy in cooperation with AMO, the Netherlands Helsinki Committee and the European Association for Local Democracy.