The New Zealand Electoral Commission has baited a social media bear with its insistence that it will prosecute social networkers that are brought to their attention, for posting their political views online on Election Day.
The current New Zealand Electoral Act (which prohibits any form of campaigning on polling day) means that if you type, text, televise or tweet your support for a party or person, on any public online platform (be it a blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or any of the other thousands of social media platforms available), before 7pm on Saturday 26th November, you could face a fine of up to $20,000.
To most it seems unreasonable to expect New Zealand social network users to not mention the election at all (… freedom of speech, and all that), but the Electoral Commission are steadfast in their resolve, stating "The Electoral Commission's advice to people using social media is not to post messages on election day…".
Twitter is already riddled with chirps of discontent - some Twitter users, going as far as to publically declare a virtual war on the Act, by tweeting about the election on the 26th and establishing hash tags (e.g. #SpartacusVotes, #nzelection11, etc.) that other Twitter users can add to their tweets, to take part in the online rebellion against the NZ Electoral Commission.
Facebook users are even more defiant, perhaps feeling more secure in the thought that their profiles can be secured against anyone, other than their friends (who they hope won't dob them into the Electoral Commission), seeing their Election Day posts.
While the Electoral Commission argues that the enforcement of the Electoral Act "…enjoys strong public support…" the sheer volume of online rants and rages seem to speak to the contrary. It will be interesting to observe the extent of public disobedience on the 26th and just what (if anything) the Electoral Commission decides to do about this.
For more information on the New Zealand Electoral Act, see the Elections site.
Wendy Schollum is a web strategist for Xplore www.facebook.com/xploreNET call 0800 100 900.