What we did: We developed a code of conduct for online political advertising in the Netherlands.

What we achieved: We strengthened the efforts of Dutch political parties to remain inclusive, responsive and accountable to all citizens on social media and other online platforms.

Who we did it with: The Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, and several Dutch political parties

Impact area: Political Participation and Representation

Grant/project name: Dutch Code of Conduct Transparency Online Political Advertising (official grant title: Dutch Code of Conduct Transparency Political Parties)  

Donor: Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations   

Award period: 14 December 2020 to 1 February 2021 

Boundary partners: Political parties 


There is nothing new about stretching the truth in politics: at least one Roman propagandist falsely blamed the Second Punic War on the Carthaginians. But modern technology has opened the door to a whole new web of potential deceit.

Faced with modern social media’s particular susceptibility to the spreading of conspiracy theories and direct lies during political campaigns, the Dutch government wanted to take action to counter the proliferation of false information and harmful content during the lead-up to Dutch elections in March 2021.

Its solution was to get International IDEA to develop and negotiate a Code of Conduct, bringing together Dutch political parties and the global online platforms. In a major step, the Code was signed in February 2021 by 11 of 13 parties with seats in the then-parliament and by Facebook, Google, Snapchat and TikTok. 

Transparency, privacy, safety, fairness, integrity and a level playing field in elections were at stake.

These core values are at the basis of the Dutch democratic election progress,’ the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations said.

Although voluntary and not enforceable, the Code commits political parties to such things as refraining from having others place unattributable ads on their behalf, and eschewing unethical online behaviour—such as using fake accounts or automatic bots to manipulate voter opinions—making unfounded accusations or cyber-bullying. 

For their part, the social media platforms vowed to provide transparency about where political ads came from, set up clear guidelines for placing and removing ads, and pledged to consider countering any inaccurate information on the electoral process.

International IDEA did not just come to the Code by happenstance. In 2018, we produced a primer on digital microtargeting. We also worked with the Dutch government and the European Commission in June 2020 on a webinar series on online political advertising.

Various European Union member states and other countries have taken note and expressed interest in cooperating with us in the future on the topic.


Photo: Creative Commons Stemlokaal provinciale verkiezingen 2015 by Sebastiaan ter Burg can be used reused under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license