2019 Election advertising

Over the next few weeks, with the help of a number of volunteers, we will be identifying paid advertising that appears to be misleading and contacting the parties concerned asking them to justify the claims, or amend or withdraw them. As visitors to this website will be aware, political advertising is currently unregulated and it seems like it’s way beyond time at least to ask political parties to observe the same rules that all other advertisers are required to observe, i.e. to be Legal, Decent, Honest and Truthful.

Unless misleadingness is blatantly obvious, we will be referencing various fact-checking sources where those have ‘ruled’ on the issue. Examples of misleading advertising will be posted on the website: we hope that these pages will become a central reference source of misleading political advertising and, more importantly, encouragement to political parties to think harder about the claims they are making in advertising. Everyone else has to.

The Women’s Equality Party announces support for the Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising

Women's Equality Party logo

We are delighted that the Women’s Equality Party has today announced that it supports our campaign to modernise the outdated rules around political advertising.

In support of the campaign Mandu Reid, the Interim Leader of the Women’s Equality Party, stated:

“The Women’s Equality Party is committed to using technology for good, but while our analogue laws drift further from people’s digital realities, there is too much potential for technology being used to spread disinformation to manipulate people in ever more targeted ways. We therefore support the aims of Coalition for Reform’s campaign.
Parliament must put aside political motivations for unfettered digital advertising campaigns, and grapple with legislation to regulate the content of online advertising and the ways it is targeted to people. Otherwise it risks the electorate’s already low trust in politics being further eroded.”

Alex Tait, Co-founder of the Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising commented:

“We are absolutely delighted to have the support of the Women’s Equality Party. Is there any reason why any political party won’t support what we are advocating as part of their election campaign? Even the Chair and CEO of the Advertising Association said earlier this week in a Lord’s committee there should be rules to stop lies in political advertising. With the current toxic environment we have around politics the modernisation of the rules around political ads has never been more urgent.”

The Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising’s campaign pledge for responsible election campaigning


Our campaign currently has the support of The Green Party, Independent Group for Change, The Renew Party and Volt UK so far. We are a politically neutral organisation and we are approaching all political parties to sign up to our campaign pledge for the UK general election.

Trust in politics and political advertising is certainly at a low. It is hard to believe but amazingly since the 2015 election and referendum there have been no changes of significance in the rules around political advertising. In the absence of this our campaign pledge is looking to establish greater transparency and accuracy in how political parties run their campaigns in the general election.

It is based on our 4-point plan for political ad reform.  We put our plan together as points we felt would be hard to argue against, so easiest to gain consensus around while also having the biggest impact. There are obviously various other areas that should be carefully considered as required by law (for example, spending limits and controls that have been looked at by the Electoral Commission). Also ensuring your campaign is compliant with GDPR.

We propose the pledge adopted should be simply:

We the <name of party> will practice responsible election campaigning and pledge to:

  1. Always include in our digital advertising information so that voters can identify the ad as ours.
  2. Publish our digital paid-for advertising content on a publicly available webpage.
  3. Share the substantiation of any objective factual claims used in ads on a publicly available webpage or on the ad itself.
  4. Revise or suspend any claims that that our nominated independent fact checking services find to be misleading.

1. Always include in our digital advertising information so that voters can identify the ad as ours.

Imprints / watermarks on all digital ads should be as per the Electoral Commission’s suggestion that “all electronic campaigning should have easily-accessible digital imprint requirements, including information on the publishing organisation and who is legally responsible for the spending”.

2. Publish our paid-for digital advertising content on a publicly available webpage.*

  • who is paying for the ads
  • which organisations are sponsoring the ads
  • the audience targeted by the ads. 

The above criteria are recommended by the DCMS Disinformation & “Fake News” report and are to ensure transparency of campaign messaging and to avoid “dark ads”. We believe that this would be a temporary measure until the “publicly accessible searchable repository [for political ads] run independently of political parties and the ad industry”, recommended in the report, is available.*

3. Share the substantiation of any objective factual claims used in ads on a publicly available webpage or on the ad itself.

Substantiate objective factual claims. This substantiation could be included in the ad itself or published independently and publicly together with any digital ads being used in the campaign.

4. Revise or suspend any claims that a nominated independent fact checking service find to be misleading.

All non-political ads which appear on TV or VOD and make factual claims are already, in ad terminology, “pre -cleared” by an organisation called Clearcast. This is an advisory service for advertisers which they can choose to ignore. However, the  Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rules on complaints which are submitted to it, and will take into account Clearcast advice in any ruling.

In the absence of a code or a regulator for political ads we suggest using common sense in weighing the accuracy of your substantiation. You should, however, publish the source of the substantiation in the ad itself or on the same webpage as your digital ads. If one of our nominated fact checking services find the objective factual claims to be misleading the advertiser should take on board that feedback and consider revising or suspending adverts containing those claims. This is a “proxy” for the role a regulator would / should play when legislation is brought up to date.

Our nominated fact checking services are Full Fact, Channel 4 FactCheck and BBC Reality Check.

If your party would like to discuss the pledge with us please contact Alex at alex.tait@reformpoliticaladvertising.org.

Please follow us on Twitter @clearpolitic5 and sign up to support our campaign here.

October, 2019.

Volt UK is the latest political party to join The Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising


We are delighted that ahead of the upcoming UK general election Volt UK has signed up to the Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising’s campaign to modernise the rules around political advertising.

Alex Gunter, Volt UK:

“Technology has enabled new forms of political advertising that can reach voters more than ever before yet it has also opened the door for bad and misleading campaigning. Volt UK therefore supports the Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising to make political advertising transparent, fair and honest.”

Alex Tait, Co-founder, The Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising:

“In the UK general election we are going to have a rerun of all the issues from the 2015 election and Brexit referendum including lies in paid ads and non transparent advertising. This is because rather amazingly the rules around political advertising still haven’t been modernised. We welcome Volt UK joining our coalition and demanding that changes. We encourage all the other political parties to do the same. Volt UK joins The Green Party, Independent Group for Change and Renew Party in supporting our campaign.”