Tuesday, 05 March 2019 09:52

No public statement on social media and polls, says AEC

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No public statement on social media and polls, says AEC Image by Tumisu on Pixabay

The Australian Electoral Commission says it currently has no plans to make any public statement about social media and the forthcoming federal election.

The organisation was reacting to a request from iTWire regarding a story carried by the ABC last Tuesday about its having made inquiries with Facebook over certain political advertisements that had been carried on the social media giant's website.

Interest in this subject has been fanned by the findings in the US about unattributed advertising and bogus news articles on both Facebook and Twitter in the run-up to, and during, the 2016 US presidential poll.

An AEC spokesperson said: "The AEC welcomes any move by digital platforms to assist voters to identify the source of electoral communication, in line with the requirements and intent of the authorisation legislation.

"The measures announced by Twitter recently are especially welcome, and the AEC hopes other platforms will follow Twitter’s lead."

The ABC reported, based on documents that it had obtained, that Facebook was yet to introduce its new rules for authorisation of political ads to Australia.

In response to a FoI request from the ABC, the AEC released four documents exchanged between its staff and Twitter personnel.

In one of them, Andrew Johnson, the principal government lawyer for the AEC's Electoral Authorisation Section, set out three scenarios which could arise in the run-up to the election and outlined how the commission would react.

One concerned a paid electoral advertisement on Twitter without proper authorisation, the second was about anonymous communication on Twitter containing electoral matter and the third a paid electoral advertisement on Twitter that infringes other offences in the Electoral Act.

"Given the increasing use of social media by political participants, we are interested in your views on the processes suggested below for escalating and resolving any Electoral Act compliance issues that may arise with electoral communications on social media," Johnson wrote.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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