Electoral Commission seeking advice on websites

February 28th, 2008 at 7:57 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

The is seeking advice on whether personal websites that carry political opinions should be treated the same as blogs under the .

The law exempts from election rules “the publication by an individual, on a non-commercial basis on the internet of his or her personal political views (being the kind of publication commonly known as a blog).”

Electoral Commission chief executive Helena Catt said it was unclear how wide the exemption was and whether it included personal websites that did not necessarily take the blog format…

Dr Catt said the commission hoped to clarify the law soon and would meet in early April to discuss advice on a range of online areas, including whether political parties’ websites had to abide by the rules for election advertisements.

It does indeed seem ludicrous that the law discriminates based on the type of technology a website uses.  But sadly this is not some drafting error, but a deliberate decision supported by Labour, NZ First and the Greens.

The Departmental Report (Para 306) advises not to broaden the exemption:

The aim of this provision is to make it clear that the publication by an individual of their personal political views on the internet in the form of  “blog” or “weblog” (which is a form of online diary) does not amount o an election advertisement. The provision is broad enough to cover all such blogs, including generic online diaries on particular websites, such as (for example) www.blogspot.com; www.myspace.com; www.facebook.com.

So the officials’ advice was very much that this applies only for views published in the form of a blog.

And National MP put up an amendment which would have widened the exemption to:

the publication by an individual, on a non-commercial basis, on the Internet of his or her personal political views

And this was rejected by Labour, Greens and NZ First.

So the problem for the Electoral Commission, and Crown Law who presumably are advising them, is that they probably agree it is ridicolous that the law defining an election ad should vary depending on the type of technology used, but if they choose to interpret the law more liberally then they are flying in the face of what Parliament explicitly voted not to do.

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12 Responses to “Electoral Commission seeking advice on websites”

  1. Buggerlugs (1,609 comments) says:

    The stupidity of this law is mindblowing. Who defines a blog? Given that it could be “A frequently updated journal or diary usually, often hosted by a third party” (cheers Google) what is to stop me re-naming my website as a blog and thus avoiding the nastier aspects of the EFA?

    Idiots.

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  2. cathi (34 comments) says:

    They really don’t get it do they.

    What if I set up a website that just displayed my RSS feed from my blog? And nothing else? Would that be another blog and therefore OK, even though it’s not technically a blog?

    And I could have an online diary which is not a blog, but which appears to be defined as one for the purposes of the Act

    What if someone else had a personal website which did not make statements that would be considered electoral advertisements, and I had a blog which did, except for the fact of it being a blog, and the someone-else hooked up my RSS feed into their site, including my EFA-contravening posts. They haven’t made any statements, but they’ve published mine, which are on a blog…oh this is just silly

    Hey, just thought of another one. What if I published my actual diary, from Outlook or whatever, as an RSS feed, and in it I had a meeting titled “Attend [insert party name here] Party rally – we must win!” Would that be an electoral advertisement under the purposes of the Act?

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  3. Murray (8,838 comments) says:

    I’ll give them advice.

    Dan Rather.

    Don’t even think about trying it on.

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  4. Ghostwhowalksnz (128 comments) says:

    This is interesting ..
    The law exempts from election rules “the publication by an individual, on a NON COMMERCIAL basis on the internet of his or her personal political views ..

    Well obviously kiwiblog is NOT non commercial as the ads and rate card to come are clear to see.
    I wonder if DPF will be applying to the EC for a definitive ruling on wether YOU are under this category, just as you made a fuss about the EPMU to ‘make sure they comply with the law’

    [DPF: The EC read this blog, so I am pretty sure they would take action if they thought Kiwiblog was legally an election advertisement.]

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  5. Inventory2 (10,095 comments) says:

    All that intelligence and savvy from the government members (tongue firmly in cheek) on the Select Committee, and a 21 year-old has exposed the stupidity of this particular provision of the EFA. What other loopholes are waiting to be exploited?

    Meantime,on my own blog – unashamedly partisan!! – I have asked WhaleOil and Lee C for updates as to how the EC is going investigating their respective complaints about The Standard and the Labour Party – pretty slowly I suspect!!

    http://keepingstock.blogspot.com/2008/02/electoral-commission-in-news.html

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  6. Grant S (146 comments) says:

    Jeez, what a nebulous clusterfuck of a law this EFA is.

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  7. rolla_fxgt (311 comments) says:

    So the EC shut Andrew Moores website down, and now they ask for advice on similar websites? Isn’t that incompetence?
    I thought the best way to do things is to ask advice & then take the action, seems to save a lot of hassles.

    And this isn’t really a dig at the EC as a whole, because usually i think they do a pretty decent job, so i guess this is just because the EFA is poorly written & now the EC has had sometime to think about the law, they have realised perhaps they made the wrong decision in the past

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  8. gd (2,286 comments) says:

    And are we going to hear from those who rubbished the idea that the EFA was an attempt to stymie free speech.

    No I thought not. It wasnt badly thought out or badly drafted law at all.

    It was a deliberate attempt to frighten free thinking citizens from raising any criticism of the encumbent government.

    There are charities out there who are frightened to death about advocating as they should be able to do in a free society because they will either be caught by the EFA or have the IRD revoke their tax free charitable status.

    Of course they are too frightened to even raise their heads above the parapit because the arsehole Socialists who are just waiting to punish them.

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  9. Buggerlugs (1,609 comments) says:

    Oh just let them even try and intimate they are going to shut this blog down…I can see the billboards already…who’d want Helena Catt’s job right now?

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  10. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    checkit out:

    http://monkeyswithtypewriter.blogspot.com/2008/02/epa-used-to-arrest-blogger.html

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  11. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    Wondered why the EFA was so quickly used to clamp down on the original ‘Don’t Vote labour’ site? Well, the power of the internet is such that now laws are being devised across the world to justify the monitoring and regulation of phenomena such as the blog. So why was I not suprised to hear the latest news to hit Scoop of late – the arrest of a blogger?

    Yes, it is true! Such is the power of the blogger that Nay Phone Latt, was arrested at an internet cafe on January 29, and has been charged under article 5(J) of the EPA.

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0802/S00088.htm

    Bloggers played a major role in ensuring the free flow of information during last September’s massive anti-government protests and the crackdown that ensued. The technically savvy bloggers posted up-to-date news, photos and commentary that captured the attention of the world. Now, [those] shaken by the success of the pro-democracy bloggers, have increased surveillance on internet cafes, forcing several bloggers underground.

    reports Terry Evans today.

    Hah Hah!

    Had you going then! Didn’t I? Actually this all happened in Rangoon not Ruatuki…

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  12. SPC (5,355 comments) says:

    I’d lay odds on this legislation coming back to the house for some revision to make it workable – provided National agreed not to delay it (because of parts they still opposed).

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