Solving elections and SNS

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Solving elections and SNS

Clause 1 of Article 93 of our election law bans “specific activities” which may affect election results during the 180-day period before an election day. The specific activities include advertisements, posters, photographs, documents and audio or video tapes which may be used for supporting or opposing a particular candidate or political party. In addition, the clause strictly prohibits candidates from distributing, inserting or showing any material similar to these specific activities. In that way, the National Election Commission banned or restricted the use of various social networking platforms such as Twitter, blogs or home pages.

But the Constitutional Court ruled this week that the outdated regulation is unconstitutional. As a result, the election commission cannot regulate campaign activities based on social network services anymore, giving more leeway to candidates for public office in their campaign activities.

The Constitutional Court’s ruling is rooted in the idea that regulations on the use of social networking platforms do not fit the original purpose of our election law’s ban on traditional campaign activities during the period before an election. In the case of advertisements, candidates with more money have an advantage over their poorer counterparts. But that’s not the case when candidates are engaged in campaigns based on SNS as the “Internet allows easy access to voters without much cost, so it serves the original goal of the election law aimed at correcting economic imbalances between candidates,” the Constitutional Court said.

We welcome the decision by the court. An ideal election campaign should be based on candidates’ messages, not their economic power. And that will help voters make a wiser decision. If the election authorities put the brakes on voters’ free expression of their views on a candidate, it may infringe on citizens’ basic rights. The argument by some members of the National Election Commission that it can still ban the use of SNS citing a clause in the election law that bans the use of telecommunication tools during the campaign period is against the Constitutional Court’s latest decision.

However, we are concerned about the possibility of abuse or misuse of SNS. Can the election authorities control a rampant propagation of ungrounded rumors or slander in cyberspace, which could affect election results? Politicians and the election commission must devise a plan to effectively address the problem ahead of the elections next year.
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