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Towards a European Code of Conduct for ethical campaigning

Democracy / POLICY BRIEF
Paul Butcher , Johannes Greubel

Date: 05/11/2021
In recent elections across Europe, the boundaries defining what counts as acceptable or moral behaviour on the part of candidates, parties, media and campaign organisers are increasingly being crossed or have become blurred, especially online. And while the landscape, tone and techniques of political campaigning have changed, the rules have not.

This Policy Brief advocates a European Code of Conduct for ethical campaigning that would more rigorously determine what counts as moral or acceptable conduct, set standards for parties and candidates, and raise expectations for all actors to contribute to a less aggressive political scene. The Code should be established through co-regulation in cooperation with prospective signatories (European political parties), experts and civil society, and should draw on existing expertise, such as from the PRO-RES project, which provides guiding principles for politicians and policymakers to make decisions based on evidence and research - principles that apply to ethical campaigning too. 

Without a codified set of standards for appropriate conduct by candidates and parties, political campaigns across Europe are likely to continue to be subject to manipulative practices, personal abuse and disinformation. A Code of Conduct for ethical campaigning may not resolve these issues overnight, but it would set the boundaries more clearly and indicate the expectations that candidates should be bound to – an important step on the path towards fairer, and less divisive and ill-tempered politics. 

This Policy Brief is part of the PRO-RES (Promoting Ethics and Integrity in Non-Medical Research) project, which aims to encourage policymakers and their advisors to base their decisions on evidence derived from research that has been conducted ethically and with integrity. The PRO-RES  project has received funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, under grant agreement number 788352.

Read the full paper here.
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