Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Political ads can legally lie

The Guardian has another story pushing the idea that this election will be fought on MumsNet. Beyond the MumsNet angle it is actually quite interesting though, Basically Labour ran an Ad on MumsNet which said

"Are you earning more than £31,000? Say hello to David. And goodbye to your child tax credits. Vote Tory and you'll get less than you bargained for"

Which is actually a lie, no Conservative Policy has said that this will happen, and it is purely based on a set of assumptions from the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The Conservatives have actually come out and said that this will not be the case.

Knowing that this was a lie, it made me wonder if online advertising was subject to the Advertising Standards Agency rules and the Code of Practice for Advertisers. It turned out that they are, it is illegal to run a misleading or untrue advert.

That is unless you are a political party as section 12.1 of the code states:
"Any advertisement or direct marketing communication, whenever published or distributed, whose principal function is to influence voters in local, regional, national or international elections or referendums is exempt from the Code"

So a political party can put out an advert that is misleading, untrue or offensive and nothing can be done about it. This hasn't always been the case though, the Code was changed in, can you guess.... 1997, just after the election.

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