Wednesday, September 12, 2007

ELECTION REGULATIONS vs SOCIAL NETWORKING

Social networking platforms such as Facebook and MySpace are emerging as the next big thing on the internet. They are already used extensively by politicians elsewhere. Candidates in Singapore would presumably be allowed to use these to put up information about themselves and their positions, as such use would fall within the "positive list" of permitted uses of websites under the Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations (PER).

More intriguing is whether social networking platforms would get around the PER's current restrictions on using e-mail to spread campaign messages. The regulations allow parties to mail to their own mailing lists, but parties can't encourage chain letters: an e-mail is not supposed to invite readers to pass it on to all their friends. This prohibition limits the powerful viral potential of e-mail communication.

The interesting thing about Facebook and the like is that the viral quality is built in. These platforms introduce you to friends of friends in a way that doesn't seem to be captured by the PER, which was formulated back in 2001. Furthermore, what is technically being passed around is not a campaign message but the electronic version of a business card, which again falls outside the scope of the PER. However this particular type of business card can of course be linked to substantive content, including campaign ads.

Of course, everyone, including the regulators, knew that the 2001 regulations would rendered redundant by evolving technologies. Social networking services are just one more step towards the inevitable. The question now is whether the government will try to cover social networking in the next round of regulatory innovation, or if it will retreat.

31 comments:

SGDaily said...

Hi Cherian George,

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Gerald said...

I doubt the govt is going to let legislation get in the way of what they want to do. Even if the PER, by your definition, does not prohibit political messages spread through social networking sites, they can always come up with some decree like "you shall not have persistently political content".

My guess is that they are unlikely to come up with specific regulations targeting social networking sites, but may come up with something general that gives "the Minister" absolute discretion to pronounce anything illegal if it so pleaseth him.

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hi my friend recently asked me what action he can take on a person who has blogged about him, the blogger called my firend using some vulgularites and said some crude words in hokkien that he does not " give a shit" about my friend. in this sentence there is another dialect vulgularity. my friend has never offended this guy and is not very close with him, thus is not very happy with what he saw on the blog.

maybe u can advice on how the law protects online users who have been insulted like this?

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