Politicians have been told they can tweet at will during the election campaign provided it is only their personal views they are expressing.
The Electoral Commission yesterday sent MPs a handbook of guidance on new election rules, which include a much broader definition of election advertising than previously.
It includes advice for the increasing number of MPs who use Twitter and Facebook. In its guidance, it says MPs using personal Twitter or Facebook accounts can continue to do so provided they only express personal political views. However, they should not post messages on election day itself, because of strict rules against any form of campaigning on the day.
The law provides for an exemption from the usual rules about election advertising where personal political views are expressed online without payment. The exemptions mean MPs will not have to carry authorising statements on their Twitter accounts. However, if they steer into expressing a ‘party’ view they could run foul of the law – something the Electoral Commission said would need to be considered on a case by case basis.
Political marketing commentator Massey University’s Claire Robinson has challenged the use of Twitter by some MPs, in particular Labour MPs using the “Stop Asset Sales” sign as their profile picture because the promoter statement could not be seen on so small a picture.
On her blog yesterday she said she believed they were election advertising.
“If New Zealand’s electoral law requires that promoter statements, authorisation and funding limits be applied to advertisements … then anything that includes the words Vote Party x should be included and this includes Twitter avatars.”
She said the Electoral Commission guidelines were the clearest she had seen. She was pleased that it had decided the party logo alone – and items such as pens – could also be election advertising.