Electoral Commission seeking advice on websites

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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