Imprints on online political ads?

Do you remember Bingo graphic that Grant Shapps tweeted last month, which not only went viral but attracted a lot of parodies?

At the time nobody commented on the fact that the ad did not have an imprint. Party activists all know that any printed political literature must have a ‘Published, promoted and printed …’ imprint on it, and not having one can be a criminal offence during election time. And yet there is no such requirement for online ads.

Andy Williamson, founder of FutureDigital, had highlighted this to the Guardian for an article on online political ads:

Infographics have become an extraordinarily fashionable way of communicating dubious information. They blur the boundaries between formality and informality. It’s very hard to know if some of them are authorised.

All the main parties have produced similar ads, though some of them are simply produced by members of the public (who may be party members) for their own amusement and are not in any way official party products.

Lib Dem Voice’s former editor, Mark Pack, is deeply interested in electoral law, so he was the natural person for the Guardian to turn to for a response:

It’s been over a decade since the Electoral Commission recommended updating the imprint rules. It’s absurd that it still hasn’t happened.


* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • The imprint issue was raised via Twitter on the night of publication. After the brou-ha-ha over the lobbying bill, some of us are rather sensitive to such questions. With or without a requirement to place an imprint on official material there is huge scope for dispute in this area around election times..

  • Also, if every tweet had to have an imprint on, you’d have about 3 characters left to actually say anything. Rules need updating for online engagement.

  • The “imprint” for tweets could be a required part of the official accounts’ profile.

  • What’s absurd is 4 page printed leaflets with the imprint in the middle of the back page in 6pt type and which doesn’t otherwise explicitly state it is party produced.

  • I object more to the leaflets that are produced that carry no party name on them !

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