Sponsors of paid online election advertising have to be disclosed in tightened campaigning rules

Sponsors of paid online election advertising have to be disclosed in tightened campaigning rules

Election candidates will have to abide by more Internet election advertising rules, such as disclosing who paid for the ads, in amendments announced by the Elections Department (ELD) on Monday (Jun 8). Michelle Teo has more.

SINGAPORE: Election candidates will have to abide by more Internet election advertising rules, such as disclosing who paid for the ads, in amendments announced by the Elections Department (ELD) on Monday (Jun 8).

These changes to the subsidiary legislation under the Parliamentary Elections Act will increase transparency and accountability on the use of paid Internet election advertising, said ELD.

Candidates must declare the types of services used for paid Internet election advertising, the publisher of the ad and the period it will appear. They also need to disclose whether money was received for it, from the candidate, his election agent, his political party or any other person.

As before, the online declaration has to be done within 12 hours after the start of the campaign period and these declarations will be put up on the ELD website for public access.

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All election advertising already needs to state the name of the publisher, once the Writ of Election is issued. For paid online election ads, it must now also display the person who paid for it. This can be by using words like “sponsored by” or “paid for by” on the advertisement, said ELD.

The election expenses returns form submitted by candidates after the election will now include expenses incurred on paid Internet election advertising. 

The amendments came into effect on Monday.

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RULES NOT DESIGNED BECAUSE OF COVID-19

“By strengthening disclosure requirements behind the use of paid IEA, the amendments will enhance accountability and better safeguard the integrity of the electoral process,” ELD said.

It added: “I think we all acknowledge that COVID-19 will result in a lot more campaigning happening online, but the rules themselves were not designed because of COVID-19. This has been in the works for quite some time and is in response to some of the trends we have seen overseas since our last election.”

ELD cited the UK and Indonesian elections last year, where there was “widespread proliferation of false information on the Internet, including via the use of paid advertising on social media”.

When asked if newer social media platforms such as TikTok may pose an issue in implementing these guidelines, ELD said that it has been engaging social media platforms on election advertising.

“Many of these platforms, they take election advertising, election campaigning very seriously and they put in place their own forms of guidelines as well as requirements in terms of exposure,” said ELD at a virtual press briefing on Monday.

OTHER FORMS OF ELECTION ADVERTISING

Changes have also been made to other forms of election advertising. The key amendments are:

  • Candidates will have to display their party logo or the symbol allotted to them by the Returning Officer on election posters and banners, in addition to the names of the printer, publisher and person at whose direction or for whom the election poster or banner is published.
  • Political parties may lodge on their candidates’ behalf the same election poster or banner for display across different constituencies. With this change, candidates do not need to separately lodge the same election poster or banner with the Returning Officer.
  • Printed election advertising (i.e. posters and banners) will be streamlined from three to two maximum sizes.
  • Candidates will be required to bear the expenses to remove the election posters or banners in breach of rules. The amount to be borne for each removal of election poster or banner is S$50, based on cost recovery, and must be declared as part of the candidates’ election expenses. Under existing rules, they may be given a warning and be required to pay a composition sum in lieu of prosecution, or prosecuted in court.
  • A list of items that are generally of small value and small in size (such as pens, diaries, key chains), which are exempted from the definition of “election advertising”, has been expanded to include umbrellas and portable objects or articles of value less than S$10 and of volume less than 10cm by 10cm by 10cm. For an item to be exempted from this requirement, it must not contain or display content that is false or negative towards other candidates.
Source: CNA/hs

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