Clearing up the election ruling

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Clearing up the election ruling

Korea’s election watchdog announced that it will allow election campaigning activities to take place through social networking services like Twitter and Facebook, and other online mediums. The National Election Commission’s decision comes after the Constitutional Court ruled that campaigning activities through online and mobile services do not violate the election law that bans candidates from distributing campaign-related materials and activities online and offline on the day of voting.

From now on, a voter can post or tweet who he or she has voted for through online or mobile communications and also openly promote a certain candidate.

The move could boost voters’ freedom of political expression as well as the basic rights of the people. In election campaigns, less money and more speech is the best formula. If money is not involved and fairness assured, voters should be encouraged to express their choice and preference in political affairs as much as possible.

The Constitutional Court said the act of limiting online election campaigning is unconstitutional. The court did not specifically rule on the article that bans campaigning activities on the Internet prior to the legal campaigning period, but the election watchdog agency said it nevertheless won’t apply the regulation in future elections. The NEC move calls for fast action from the Assembly to revise the election law to accommodate the on-field changes.

Internet and mobile communications have emerged as the main platforms for election campaigning in the country. Candidates who employ the new tools and technologies can turn the tide to his or her favor.

But authorities must keep watch on the abuses and misapplications. The NEC is confident it can regulate and punish slandering and defamatory campaigning through other election law regulations but it may fall short of keeping surveillance on the cascade of information on various online and mobile platforms.

The propagation of false information can jeopardize fairness in elections and deal a fatal blow to candidates. The NEC must come up with measures to quickly act against such signs and activities. It must present what is permissible or not and inform the voters of these standards.

The NEC must also list what is appropriate and inappropriate in addition to explaining to the public why posting on the Internet and SNS is acceptable, while phone calling and other physical campaigning on election day is not.

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