Social media offers politicians a very tempting way of doing all sorts of things. To my mind, there is nothing wrong with that. On the face of it.
But what people reading things on social media don’t always know is that there are laws governing political messaging and advertising, and also that social media offers ingenious ways of getting round rules.
One of the UK rules is to do with imprints: basically an imprint allows the reader to understand who is behind what they are reading. In turn this allows the reader to check who is behind whatever or whoever is being promoted. Look for the small print on any political flier which is delivered through your letterbox. You should find it. It is a legal requirement.
This “imprint” is key to finding out who is being promoted (usually a candidate) and (with this knowledge) who is funding a political campaign, and yes, there is also UK legislation surrounding political donations to UK campaigns. Another legal requirement is to obey the laws about donations.
Campaigners in Peterborough found a piece of printed material which lacked an imprint during the EU Referendum campaign. This was reported to the Electoral Commission. It is an offence to omit an imprint, although this A5 flier wasn’t impressive and at first glance this is not a big thing. It could always be someone who is a newcomer to political campaigner and who doesn’t know any better. That’s wrong, but understandable. But….
The imprint rules for social media advertising by political entities have no legal force behind them. They are merely recommendations laid down by the Electoral Commission indicating basic standards of good practice. This leaves people who know very much better than a beginner able to advertise on social media, deliberately concealing the organiser, the cause, the funder and the objectives. One I think fits this description crossed my path recently.
Here’s me, picking up on someone’s comment that an image in a facebook advertisement featured comes from a Third Reich archive. It reminded me of a certain Prime Ministerial field of wheat. Even the wheat is old fashioned: we don’t grow it tall like that any more. We’re in the realms of nostalgia.
Here’s his tweet:
What seized my interest is that I’ve already seen the image out of the corner of my eye. It has already crossed my facebook feed, but as I was doing something else (as I usually am) I paid it no attention: I registered the image, but didn’t read the text. This is how subliminal advertising works. But now that someone has said something astonishing about the picture the advertisement, text and picture, now has my full attention. So (apologising for the format – it looks so much better on twitter!) here we go:
This looks like an operation to collect email addresses and to raise funds: but it will have to be funded by someone, somewhere. I and every other person who encounters this should be able to see who is doing what and for whom. We can’t.
Part one was an email, and isn’t on my blog.
Happy to be corrected: I looked at this a few days ago and just went over what I did. Nothing much has changed, except the organisation now claims it is in the UK (but doesn’t provide an address) and the entity the website claims is editing it is apparently also in the UK: https://twitter.com/rjdavies7 I have no idea if these two accounts relate to the same human being.