Thai Elec­tion Com­mis­sion to check so­cial me­dia posts

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Asean Focus -

THE Elec­tion Com­mis­sion (EC) on Wed­nes­day 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 Wed­nes­day. 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 Si­la­paar­cha. 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.

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. – Bangkok Post

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