Transparency code applies to all political ads

An advertising code of practice under Singapore's fake news law, which took effect in October last year, applies to all political advertisements.

This includes even those ads that are not accused of containing falsehoods, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran told Parliament yesterday in his reply to Workers' Party MP Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC).

The Code of Practice for Transparency of Online Political Advertisements sets out measures that certain intermediaries, such as social media platforms, must implement to ensure the transparency of online political advertising.

For example, it requires these intermediaries to ensure that online political ads carry disclosure notices to inform readers of the person or organisation that had placed or paid for the ads.

Mr Iswaran said intermediaries are also required to put in place other accountability measures, such as maintaining a database of online political ads, and providing channels for members of the public to report ads that are not disclosed.

Ms Lim also asked why the Pofma Office requires companies to maintain such records, including a copy of the ad, the name of its originator, the amount paid, a description of its intended target audience and the number of viewers reached, among other things.

"If the advert has nothing fake or alleged to be fake in it, what is the interest of the Pofma Office to know these things?" she asked.

Mr Iswaran replied: "The requirement is imposed on the intermediaries to keep the information. It doesn't mean that the Pofma Office has to have access to this information, but the information must be available so that in the event action is required, the relevant information is available."

He noted that major platforms such as Google and Twitter do not allow political ads at all.


On Facebook, the information disclosed to the public about political ads on its platform already goes beyond that required by the advertising code.

The Facebook Ad Library offers information about who paid for an ad - not just political ads - how much they spent and how many people saw it, among other things. The library was launched in March last year.

Said Mr Iswaran: "Our objective is to ensure the information is captured because if you don't spell it out clearly and you want it after the fact, it may not be available, which will then thwart the intent of the legislation."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2020, with the headline 'Transparency code applies to all political ads'. Subscribe