12 July 2016

ACT Electoral Commission updates rules on social media post attribution

| Chris Mordd Richards
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Jeremy Hanson

After formally warning the ACT Liberals over their use of campaign material on social media last week, the Electoral Commission has issued an update to the rules that reverses their previous instructions to the Liberals over their usage.

A number of Liberals had posted anti-Light Rail material on their social media feeds that didn’t include any party attribution on the images. This led to confusion over the rules governing material shared on social media and the Electoral Commission’s outdated policies on this.

ACT Electoral Commissioner Phil Green wrote to Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson and his Liberal MLA colleagues Nicole Lawder and Giulia Jones warning them that the images must include an authorising statement within the image itself. “It was feared that if the image was posted by a politician but shared by others, it would no longer be clear where the content had originated.”

Damien Haas, the chairman of ACT Light Rail, had originally brought the matter to the attention of the Electoral Commission, and received this reply from them:

Letter from the Electoral Commission

Mr Green wrote to the ACT Liberals again on Friday to advise that an authorising statement was not necessary for material shared on social media, as long as it was clear who had originally posted the image itself.

“That would be readily apparent in most circumstances on Facebook and Twitter,” he said, saying this was because of the way content was shared.

“For example, if Mr Hanson were to post an anti-light rail graphic on his Facebook page, and others shared it, it would still be clear that Mr Hanson was the original poster, and that he was doing so in his capacity as a member of the Legislative Assembly.”

This seems like a commonsense decision by the Electoral Commission but serves to highlight how much social media has changed the rules when it comes to political campaigning.

Image Source: Jeremy Hanson Facebook page; ACT Light Rail public Facebook group.

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