Political Ads – Bill C-76 and How Online Advertising is Impacted

Another rapidly moving Bill has emerged out of Ottawa with limited industry input to help inform and mitigate unintentional negative impacts on the online advertising industry in Canada. Bill C-76 is a fast-moving Bill emerging from Ottawa, which will directly affect most publishers and platforms in Canada.

So, what is it?

The Federal Government is proposing amendments to the Canada Elections Act. Bill C-76 imposes brand new transparency obligations onto any platform, publisher or app that displays political advertising.

Specifically, the Government will be requiring “online platforms” publish a registry of all “partisan advertising” and “election advertising” messages displayed on their “platform”, which would include a copy of the ad displayed as well as certain prescribed information (i.e. the identity of the party that authorized the advertising). “Online platforms will be required to maintain this registry for a period of 5 years after an election.”

Are you Impacted?

“Online platforms” are defined as “an Internet site or Internet application…[which] sells, directly or indirectly, advertising space on the site or application”, while the new obligations to maintain a registry would apply to:

  • any “online platform” that has over three million monthly visits from Canadian users (if site is mainly English)
  • one million monthly visits (if the platform is mainly available in French)
  • one hundred thousand monthly visits (if the platform is in another language)

The proposed amendments also indicate that the registry must be maintained on the platform itself, and cannot be hosted in another location.

While the Bill has not yet been passed, it is critical that the industry becomes informed and prepared to take on the burden of maintaining registries ahead of its likely effective date ahead of the elections next fall.

As the voice of the Canadian digital media industry, IAB Canada is supportive of efforts to ensure transparency in political advertising. Our concern lies in the creation of unintended consequences through uninformed policy. To this end, IAB Canada will be forming a group of interested parties to discuss the implications of this amendment. Should someone from your organization be part of this task force, please get in touch with your IAB representative.