You may be arrested for your tweet on the election

The big day is coming. Korean people are going to vote for their new mayors, governors, local assemblymen and local superintendents of educations across the whole nation on 2 June.

It happens to be in the middle of President Lee’s terms of office, so the local elections are also regarded as the interim estimation for president.

Major parties and candidates are ready to kick off their campaign, and it is one of their greatest challenges to make best use of internet and mobile technology to communicate with voters. Remember President Obama and the Late President Roh! You need to be smart to be elected.

And now twitter is definitely the hottest channel for the candidates.

While twitter is not as much hyped in Korea as it is in other parts of the world, the government began to worry about the possibility of abusing twitter for illegal campaign for local elections.

Be careful when you post tweets on the election. Big Brother is watching youūüôā

– I hope it turns out to be just a joke, but anyway, the National Election Commission (NEC) made it public that it would watch and crack down the illegal campaign activities on twitter. NEC plans to monitor whether tweets contain false information or slander, and track the person posting the tweets are eligible for election campaign. If a twitter user disseminate the false informations, NEC recommend him/her to voluntarily delete the information. If that doesn’t work, NEC will ask Internet Service Providers to block the account.

According to a¬†guideline NEC recently released for using twitter for the campaign, you cannot post tweets that express the support or opposition about parties or candidates for the purpose of an election campaign¬†before the official election campaign period (from 20 May to 1 June). The followers of a candidate cannot retweet the tweet containing ‘election campaign information’ to their own followers before the official campaign period. ¬†Also, you cannot express the support or opposition about candidates who do not make official decision to run for offices before the official campaign period.

‘Simple’ expression of opinion of election or ‘simple’ expression of support or opposition for the nomination of candidates by parties is allowed.

These restrictions are based on the Article 93 of the Election Law which prohibits ‘the distribution, showing or post of the advertisements, greetings, pictures, documents, audio/video tapes and anything similar containing the support, recommendation or opposition on parties or candidates’ from 180 days before the election day to election day. ¬†NEC considers the tweets are included in ‘anything similar’ as they did the User Created Contents (UCC) video clips on 2007 presidential election.

So, what can you do about election in twitter? Almost nothing, complained the twitter users.¬†¬†It is hard to define what is the expression of support or opposition as campaign activity or just ‘simple’ expression of opinion. The line is so blurred that everything is up to NEC. It discourage the expression of political opinion and hinders the freedom of speech. Why can’t we publicly support or oppose candidates in twitter?

The point is Article 93 that comprehensively limits the electioneering before the the official campaign period, not the twtter, because “the interest on the election is the basis of the democracy and the noisier the election is, the better it is,” some argue.

The Article 93 is for major parties or candidates not to dominate the election campaign using their money and resources and give equal opportunities for minor candidates who lack of resources. By limiting the period when candidates can do election campaign, the gap between the major and minor parties can be minimized.

But the regulation is based on old days electioneering where you use tons of money, people and organization to make prints, banners, advertisements to reach the voters. Twitter, and other social media are the easiest and cheapest way to reach and communicate with people even for the candidates with least resources. Internet and mobile technology let people more connected and more interested in political activities. According to the purpose of the law, you need to encourage the use of twitter. But you cannot, in order to obey the law. This is another point where the regulations cannot follow the change of technologies.

And more problem. Even NEC can monitor the violation of law committed in twitter, you have rarely a way to enforce the law to twitter users. Twitter does’n have Korean branch or Korean operation, and they don’t have user information other than their e-mail addresses.

NEC, of course, are aware of these problems. NEC announced that they aim to promote the bright site of twitter as a new media and regulate only those violating the Election Law. “NEC – as an executing body – has no choice but to maintain existing standards as long as the law is not revised. It is difficult for NEC to apply the law by arbitrary interpretation of the law, but NEC will limit the regulation only to the explicit violations,” said a head of Legal Affairs Division, NEC on ‘Open Debate for Revision of Article 93 of the Election Law ” held on 18 Feb. ¬†(via the report of the Electronic Times)

Anyway, you can follow Korean National Election Commission at twitter. They opened the twitter account to provide proper information on the election and guide users not to unintentionally violate the Election Law. Some users blocked NEC account for the protestant on its policy on twitter.

3 thoughts on “You may be arrested for your tweet on the election

    1. Haha, thank you for first reply ever (except the automated wordpress reply :b)

      I wonder how they regulate (if ever) the election campaign in your country.
      Hope you have wonderful adventure in Korea!

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