Monday, 24 May 2010

Election 2010: Cyber Police

I have been observing what's been happening on the cybersphere for the past few hours. I posed this question to a colleague last week and I still do not have the answer, but the question relates to the excerpt below:
I am advising the public that they are to seek information on what they can and cannot do on election day and ensure that the law is adhered to,” (Ag. CoP) Philbert said, adding that absolutely no campaigning will be allowed next Monday and his officers will be out in full force to ensure breaches will be detected and met with the full brunt of the law. - Newsday

I consciously chose my shirt today based on what I have always known as a very serious legal issue - campaigning on election day. Be it on the streets, or via the media, it has been a no-no for as long as I can remember. Though I was not totally certain whether it is indeed a transgression, I did not want to somehow be barred from voting because I wore a party colour. However, is anyone policing social media, because from where I sit, I have seen some questionable things. And if the parties have used social media to campaign all throughout the campaign, then in my view, doing it today is just as illegal as doing it via traditional means. I saw one newspaper place a disclaimer saying it would delete any comment which went down this road, and that is indeed commendable. But while the TTPS are out in the 41 constituences to prevent this from happening today (in addition to cracking down on election bootleg alcoholic drinks) who is policing the web today? It may be new - this whole social media thing and how it impacts our elections and our laws - but it's worth clarifying.


The law with respect to canvassing on Election day is rather archaic. The representation of the people act was passed long before the internet was conceived of. The language of the Act is appropriately arcane and confusing, section 89 which deals with clothing etc states:

" 89. (1) No person shall furnish or supply any public address apparatus, loudspeaker, bunting, ensign, banner, standard or set of colours or any flag to any person with intent that it should be worn or used on polling day within an electoral district for which an election is being held on any motor or other vehicle as political propaganda on polling day, and no person shall on polling day carry, wear or use within such electoral district any public address apparatus, loudspeaker, bunting, ensign, banner, standard or set of colours or flag, on any motor or other vehicle or otherwise as political propaganda.

(2) No person shall furnish or supply any flag, ribbon, label, symbol or like favour or any article of clothing to or for any person with intent that it be worn or used by any person within an electoral district on polling day as a badge to distinguish the wearer as the supporter of any candidate or of the political or other opinions entertained or supposed to be entertained by such candidate; and no person shall use or wear any flag, ribbon, label, symbol or like favour or any article of clothing as such badge within an electoral district on polling day."

with respect to campaigning, there is no universal ban on it, just a ban within a certain distance from the polling station. section 91 states

" 91. (1) During the hours that the poll is open upon polling day no person shall, in any polling station or upon any road or in any public place within one hundred yards of any polling station, seek to influence any elector to vote or to refrain from voting for any candidate or political party or to ascertain for whom any elector intends to vote or has voted."

The act of course makes no allowance for the influence of social media. Also, one may ask, why on earth have a distance restriction? So it is ok for me to stand up 101 yards outside the station and canvass my life away?

And of course, no allowance is made for Social Media... Heck, no allowance is made for TV and radio, fortunately they are responsible enough to not do it, or maybe it is in their licence agreement, but the law certainly needs to be amended to allow for this.

This morning, I saw an e-mail with a negative message about one of the political figures saying be careful who you vote for, the Trinidad Express's website still had a geolocation ad on it for one of the parties (this seems to have been removed), and one of the Columns in the Guardian went very close to speaking against one of the parties.

When I overthrow the government, and set up my benign dictatorship for 10 years while I sort out the best ways of running the country, I will ensure that the laws and the enforcement will be in place to prevent election day campaigning.

ROFL @ benign dictatorship.

Thanks for the clarification 'presidente'.


You're right. These laws have no bearing on modern life! This was drawn up when we had horse and carriages or something? So let's say we keep the distance thing, do these people recognise that the internet can be accesed ANYWHERE?? So I can be 100 yds or whatever away, on my Blackberry, using Facebook, or on an online media site or where have you, and have access or rather be assaulted by party propoganda hosted online! Or I am being emailed, or SMSed or BBM'ed...who knows!!!

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comments and questions!

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More