click to expand The B.C. Liberals and other parties posted messages on Twitter on May 12, the day of the provincial general election, in violation of the B.C. Election Act.
Elections B.C. has said that the B.C. Liberal Party has violated section 233 of the province’s Election Act by posting campaign messages on Twitter on election day. A look at the microblogging Web site suggests that other organizations have done the same.
Section 233 of the Act states: “On General Voting Day, election advertising must not be published, transmitted or broadcast in an electoral district until the close of all voting stations in the electoral district.”
On May 12, the B.C. Liberal Party’s Twitter account, @bcliberalparty, posted messages on Twitter promoting the party and broadcasting negative messages related to the NDP.
That message has since been deleted.
Kenn Faris, spokesperson for Elections B.C., told the Straight that Elections B.C. met with the B.C. Liberal Party and the NDP at the outset of the election and explained that tweeting would not be allowed on election day.
“We were informed about the B.C. Liberal’s tweeting this morning,” Faris said. “We found out about it around 10:30 and right after that, we called the party to advise them that Twitter falls under section 233 and is prohibited on general voting day.”
David Bieber, spokesperson for the B.C. NDP, left a message on the Straight’s voicemail saying that it was the NDP’s understanding that under the Election Act, tweets are not allowed on election day.
“We are respecting the Act and staying silent until after the polls close at 8 p.m.,” he said.
Under the Election Act, individuals or parties found to have violated section 233 of the Act are liable for a fine of up to $10,000 or up to one year in prison, according to Faris. A penalty for violating section 233 is issued at the discretion of B.C.’s chief electoral officer.
Because the Liberals responded to Elections B.C.’s request in a timely manner, Faris said, the matter would not be pursued and the Liberal Party will not be punished.
In the morning of May 12, Chad Peterson, communications manager for the B.C. Liberal Party, confirmed to the Straight that the @bcliberalparty account continued to post messages on May 12. But Peterson said that he couldn’t say whether the party had been contacted by Elections B.C. or not. Subsequent calls from the Straight were not returned.
British Columbians for BC-STV, an electoral-reform campaign organization, also continued posting messages on May 12 via its Twitter account @BCSTV, until 11:30 a.m. Although May 12 tweets were deleted from BC-STV’s Twitter account, messages posted on May 12 can still be viewed at search.twitter.com, which indexes messages posted to Twitter.
Shoni Field, spokersperson for BC-STV, told the Straight that the campaign had continued to post messages on Twitter on election day.
“All I can say is we have not heard anything from Elections B.C. on it,” she said in a telephone interview. “Social media is obviously a big part of elections campaigns and political party communications now and we’ve heard nothing specific from Elections B.C. with regards to Twitter.”
The B.C. Green party’s general Twitter account, @BCGreens, continued to post campaign-related messages on May 12 at least until around 1 p.m.
The Liberal party’s violation of the Election Act was brought to the Straight’s attention by Adele Kirwer, a Vancouver-based Internet production specialist. Kirwer told the Straight that when she signed on to Twitter this morning, she saw that the Liberal party was still posting messages and suspected that this contravened the Election Act.
Kirwer said she called Elections B.C. to express her concern. A spokesperson responded by explaining that Twitter was a new medium that the regulatory body was learning to deal with but that everybody was expected to play by the rules.
Faris told the Straight that how Elections B.C. governs campaign advertising changes from year to year.
“Because of evolving technology, our interpretations are evolving as well,” he said. “Following each election experience, we make recommendations to the legislature for changes or further clarity. And then whatever changes get passed are given to us for the future.”
You can follow Travis Lupick on Twitter at twitter.com/tlupick.