EC to check social media posts

EC to check social media posts

War room to check on spread of false news

The seven members of the Election Commission faced representatives of political parties at a meeting on Wednesday.
The seven members of the Election Commission faced representatives of political parties at a meeting on Wednesday.

The Election Commission (EC) yesterday welcomed a proposal for the poll agency to monitor use of social media platforms during the election campaign and curb misleading or false information in a timely fashion.

Disinformation in online election campaigns was among key issues raised by parties during their meeting with the EC yesterday. The commission is finishing campaign regulations to be issued when a royal decree announcing the general election is published in the Royal Gazette.

Several parties called on the poll agency to set up a "war room" to monitor the use of social media and take prompt action to avert damage from slanderous and false information spread online. They wanted the EC to deal with misleading information and fake news.

Some suggested that online election campaigns should be wrapped up three days ahead of the polls. Normally parties and candidates are not allowed to engage in vote canvassing after 6pm on the eve of election day.

Representatives from small parties said the EC should also provide support for campaigns on social media. However, some said the use of social media should be limited to party policy platforms only.

However, a number of participants called for a total ban on the use of social media in the campaign because it was hard to regulate while the damage caused by false political messages would be massive.

EC chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong said yesterday the EC would look into the idea of setting up a task force to respond to abuse of social media to slander political opponents.

"There are eight election-related announcements which the EC has to consider. We'll look at proposals floated by parties and media outlets so we have appropriate campaign rules after the royal decree on the election is announced," he said.

The issue of online election campaigns also overshadowed the EC's proposed prohibition of images that should not appear on an MP candidate poster.

Earlier, it was suggested that campaign billboards and leaflets might not include anyone other than the candidate, the party leader or prime ministerial candidate nominated by the respective party.

The proposed ban is thought to be in line with Section 45 of the charter and the organic law on political parties which bars non-members from interfering in the affairs of a party.

Political observers believe the proposed ban would affect certain parties and candidates who rely on the popularity of individuals.

The Pheu Thai Party is known to have close affiliations with former prime ministers Thaksin Shinawatra and Yingluck Shinawatra. The Chartthaipattana Party is closely tied to the late prime minister Banharn Silapa-archa.

Supachai Jaisamut, deputy secretary-general of the Bhumjaithai Party, said yesterday the ban on the use of images is unlikely to make a difference because the public is aware of people's political affiliations.

"Posters and billboards aren't the issue," he said, adding his party is unlikely to use this against its political rivals.

He said the election is a contest of policy platforms, not a competition of individuals.

Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary-general of the Future Forward Party, said posters and billboards might not be as important in the social media era as they were in the past.

He called on the EC to focus on campaigns on social media and support it if it wants to reduce campaign spending.

"Our concern is the EC is likely to ban campaign ads on social media despite their being cheaper, while allowing political ads in other formats," he said.

He agreed with Mr Supachai's comment that the political affiliations of public figures are public knowledge.

Democrat Party deputy leader Chinnaworn Boonyakiat said fake news is his primary concern and the EC should set up a task force to monitor online election campaigning. He suggested online campaigning should end three days before election day and urged the EC to educate voters about the new voting system and exercise its power to suspend or disqualify cheats from the contest.

Mr Chinnaworn disagreed with a proposal that the EC should seek to amend the law to give candidates of the same parties the same ballot numbers nationwide and called on parties to put up with it.

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