31 Oct 2019

On 30 October Twitter announced a ban on political advertising, with a statement that "a political message reach should be earned, not bought". Twitter's position contrasts with Facebook's exemption of politicians' adverts from fact-checking and from a policy that bans false statements from paid advertisements. Neither position fully addresses legitimate concerns about the potential uses of social media to influence or even manipulate voting behaviour and election results.  

In an article to be published in the New Law Journal on 1 November, Moga Moodley argues that recent developments in personal data protection law might yet provide an important line of defence for UK parliamentary democracy. Using harvested personal data for electoral influence or manipulation would certainly seem to meet the threshold test of seriousness set out in Lloyd v Google [2019], which focused on individuals’ data being ‘deliberately and wilfully misused, for Google’s commercial purposes, without their consent, and in violation of their established right to privacy’. Similar reasoning might readily apply to harvested data used for political advertising, and faced with the potential risk of being identified as "joint controllers" for data protection purposes, political parties might be forced to think twice before enlisting data analytics services designed to identify "persuadable" voters.