Google is tightening transparency rules around political advertising ahead of European parliamentary elections in May 2019. The technology company outlined several measures intended to mitigate the risk of outside actors influencing the outcome.

Full requirements will be published in January, but in the meantime Google announced in a blog post new information about what it will require of advertisers – as well as a reminder about existing protection tools operating in the US.

It comes two months after Google, Facebook, Twitter and other tech companies endorsed a joint code of conduct to tackle the spread of “fake news” in the European Union.

Lie Junius, Google’s director of EU public policy and government relations, explained in the blog post that the company will require “ads that mention a political party, candidate or current officeholder [to] make it clear to voters who’s paying for the advertising”.

Potential advertisers will have to submit an application and have their credentials verified before paying for a political ad.

Google also will introduce an EU-specific election ads transparency report and searchable library to provide more information about who is looking to buy election ads.

A third pillar of its new policy involves Google offering “security training” to the most vulnerable groups – those, for example, at risk of phishing attacks – while Google News Lab will work with news organisations across the 27 EU member states (the UK is expected to have left the bloc at the end of March) to support online fact checking.

“Like others, we’re thinking hard about elections and how we continue to support democratic processes around the world, including by bringing more transparency to political advertising online,” Junius said.

Facebook has said it is introducing similar verification and transparency arrangements in Europe, but – in a separate development – it has chosen to take on regulators in the UK over its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal earlier this year.

The social media giant has lodged an appeal against a £500,000 fine imposed on it by the Information Commissioners’ Office over personal data breaches, the BBC reported.

It was initially reported that about 1.1 million UK-based users had their personal details exposed, but Facebook argues that the fine is unjustified because there is no evidence that UK users’ data had been shared inappropriately.

A General Regulatory Chamber tribunal will consider the challenge and, if it agrees, Facebook will be able to take the case to the Court of Appeal.

However, in his analysis of Facebook’s appeal, BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones said: “At a time when the social media firm is under fire and accused of using dodgy tactics to combat its critics, picking a fight with the UK regulator over an issue which was beginning to fade into the background seems reckless.”

Sourced from Google, BBC; additional content by WARC staff