Election ban on social media: what can, what cannot and the way is it regulated in different components of the world

Simultaneous and Compulsory Open Primary Elections (PASO) will take place again on Sunday and, as stipulated in the National Electoral Law, a series of prohibitions, the electoral ban, will be regulated from 48 hours before the elections.

From that moment on, public conversions, polls, and polls prior to the election may not be published or disseminated until three hours after the voting is complete. Article 64 of the Code establishes the prohibition of the display and publication of advertisements in graphic media, public roads, mobile and landline telephony, advertising in public shows and generally includes “Internet” without explicit reference to social networks.

In open networks such as Facebook (and Instagram, from the same company), Twitter and YouTube (owned by Google) “The bans apply as in the other media,” said Sebastián Schimmel, Secretary of the National Electoral Chamber (CNE) for the election campaign the candidates cannot make publications aimed at winning the vote.

According to the CNE regulation, candidates and groups must declare their official accounts and the electoral judiciary supervises them. This is an important piece of information clarified by Facebook to TN Tecno: they do not define whether a post is legal or not, this is done by the CNE, which has a direct dialogue with the social network to unsubscribe when they do it were breaking a rule.

Adela Goberna, Public Policy Manager at Twitter Hispanoamérica, stated that while the social network is “not a means of communication, we encourage candidates, campaigns, new media and voters to use Twitter according to local regulations and recognize our collective throughout the electoral process” . Responsibility to the electorate to ensure a safe, fair and legitimate democratic process in these elections.

Google, the owner of YouTube, also complies with local laws, which is why the voting ban also includes its platforms, especially with regard to advertisements.

“We cannot interfere in interpersonal communication such as WhatsApp between two people unless there is formal and contractual advertising that is prohibited. But in an open network such as Facebook or Twitter, if the account is not closed, the prohibitions apply just as they do in the other media, ”explains Schimmel.

With this in mind, he noted that advertising and missionary publications aimed at winning votes are prohibited to voters. It was made clear, however, that content can sometimes be difficult to determine whether or not the content is a missionary act.

To protect the integrity of the elections, they have an advertising library on Facebook and Instagram, a file that records who paid for each campaign, whether it is active and when it was shown to the public. This is a great way to check if a candidate has broken the ban.

In 2019, in the last presidential election, the activity was recorded on the profiles of the Frente de Todos on October 25, just before 8:00 a.m. Alberto Fernández and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner posted a picture of their voting slip on Facebook and Instagram at 7:48 a.m. and 7:49 a.m. that day. On Sunday 27th, Mauricio Macri shared his photo voting and a video to greet people, among other things. Together for Change Vice President candidate Miguel Ángel Pichetto posted videos of the campaign’s completion before the ban begins at dawn on October 25 (12:14 AM and 12:38 AM).

STEP 2021 elections and the Internet

In 2018, the National Electoral Chamber created a directory of websites and official social networks of candidates and political groups to avoid violating the ban.

Under the National Electoral Law, candidates may not post any announcements or call the election in any way, including via the Internet, 48 hours before the start of the election.

This year, as in 2019, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the National Electoral Chamber (CNE) to ensure the integrity of the elections in Argentina and joined the second CNE-sponsored Digital Ethical Commitment to address misinformation fight on the internet.

The panel highlighted the CNE’s agreed No. 66/2018 on combating disinformation and so-called “fake news”:

  • Monitoring of social networks and election propaganda on the Internet
  • Creation of the “register of social media accounts and official websites of candidates, political groups and highest party authorities”
  • Obligation to political parties to present audiovisual material from campaigns on the Internet and in social networks
  • Body of accountants

From Twitter they stated that they are trying to watch the health of the conversation on the social network “in order to strike a fair balance between freedom of expression and the safety of the people who use the platform”.

“The Twitter rules prohibit acts such as threats of violence, identity theft and others that do not contribute to democratic dialogue. There are three basic categories: security, privacy, and authenticity. We developed our Civic Integrity Policy, which prohibits content that discourages participation or misleads people about when, where, or how to participate in a civic process. In addition, because of the state of the conversation and because Twitter understands that political reach must be acquired, not bought, ads that contain references to political content, including voting requests, financial assistance and advocacy requests, are prohibited. or against the above types of content of a political nature, ”reported the board of this social network.

The disinformation campaigns, which often try to get people to vote wrongly – and lose their right to vote – are also a point that Facebook is attacking.

“There are campaigns in many countries with the strategy of saying how to vote wrongly so that the votes of their opponents are invalidated. Because of this, we have proactive systems to monitor this type of content and not allow it to be widely distributed. It’s something sensitive, we have to react super quickly. To do this, we use people and systems to guarantee the response, ”he said at a journalists’ round table attended by TN Tecno, Marco Tourinho, Facebook’s Strategic Response Manager for Latin America.

Disinformation is also circulating a lot on WhatsApp, a more difficult platform to monitor, as Schimmel explained, but there are also strategies to curb the viralization of messages with incorrect data.

“Highly forwarded message” labels and the maximum forwarding limit of five conversations can reduce the spread of this content. Paloma Szerman, Public Policy Manager for Latin America at WhatsApp, said this “has reduced the number of redirects worldwide by 70 percent”. The company also uses a detection system to prevent automated accounts – bots – from being created or to detect unusual behavior. “Around 8 million WhatsApp accounts are canceled worldwide every month,” said Szerman.

The online closure in the rest of the world

The rules of international companies are usually the same for every region or continent. “Our rules are global and for everyone on the platform. We create our rules to keep people safe on Twitter, and they are constantly evolving to reflect the diverse realities of the world we live in, ”said the Twitter spokesman.

Facebook reported that it signed an agreement with the Organization of American States (OAS) in early 2021 to develop projects and initiatives related to electoral integrity and human rights. The social network has also tripled the number of teams that work with integrity in recent years and now comprises more than 35,000 employees, spread across 40 units.

But often restrictions or censorship are imposed by governments.

In mid-August, the elections in Zambia drew global attention to an extreme “shutdown”: the cybersecurity NGO NetBlocks confirmed that “social networks and messaging platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Messenger are restricted”.

The government had threatened to cut internet access if people “spread lies that could destabilize the elections”. Following the complaints, the official authorities rejected the reports, calling them “malicious”.

Unfortunately, Zambia is not an isolated case: something similar happened in electoral processes in Cameroon, Congo, Tanzania, Uganda and Mauritania, to name just a few examples.

In other countries, governments began to clarify the regulations and instead of talking about the Internet in general, they were referring to these types of services.

In the UK, social networks and other platforms are subject to the same rules as in the pre-election periods, for which candidates are asked not to post any opinions, communications or photos and messages that could be considered campaign news on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram , YouTube or similar services.

In the United States, the battle of the services in 2020 focused on closing the vote, closing the famous “exit points” and preventing the spread of false information that could lead to riot or conflict on the streets.

After the polls closed on November 3rd, Facebook stopped all political ads. And he was preparing to “limit the distribution of content” related to civil violence or confrontation.

The social network has also put together labels for candidate or campaign mail announcing an early victory. It also reported that it changed its algorithm to suppress viral content that tries to spread misinformation or posts that incite violence.

Google and its YouTube video platform toon banned the ads in the US along with the November 3rd election closing. The platform also showed real-time election results, provided by the Associated Press news agency.

A week before the vote, Twitter posted notices of tweets that “contained false allegations about the vote by email that could suggest electoral fraud.” In addition, at the beginning of the vote, he marked the messages – also from journalists – that “make statements about the election results before the official figures are released”. The social network relied on seven local media outlets to determine if the race for the presidency was over: ABC News, AP, CNN, CBS News, Decision Desk HQ, Fox News and NBC News.

Where do I vote in STEP 2021?

Like every year, voters are wondering where do I vote? The National Electoral Commission (CNE) recommends consulting the final register as more polling stations have been added and it is estimated that one in four Argentines is in a different location than in the last election.

To find out your polling station, you will need to enter your ID number, gender, district and confirm the code displayed on the page. You can check it out here.

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