In light of the rise of social media, I believe Maltese people should have rights that have to do with data and advertising in a way that defends our democratic process. Here are my major thoughts:
1. The government (which is the biggest advertiser in the country) should not be allowed to spend all of its publicity money on social media because this removes revenues for news platforms which are crucial in our democratic process. Our constitution should ensure that governments advertise through locally-owned news platforms. Also, public sector advertising should be regulated to ensure that it is not being used as a carrot or a stick to media organisations. There should be a regularly updated formula as to how government advertising money should be distributed.
2. People should have a right to know when they are being advertised to, which is why paid-for content should become illegal unless it is clearly marked as sponsored. This would make news publications more careful about the difference between PR/news and advertising. Citizens should be defended against such blurring of the two.
3. All government advertising should be done transparently so that taxpayers can know how their money is being spent. There should be an easily accessible website showing every transaction. That way, we would also know which marketing agencies are being used by government to advertise and there would be full transparency.
4. Freedom of Information should also be strengthened to ensure there is a fast response to any/all questions that are in the public interest, no matter who is asking them.