The Electoral Commission regularly receives enquiries and complaints about the use of social media by voters at a general election.
This page is intended to provide voters, who are not directly involved in the campaign of a candidate or party, with a summary of the rules around the use of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, in the run-up to the election and on election day.
More detailed information about the election campaign rules for candidates, parties and third party campaigners can be found here.
PRIOR TO ELECTION DAY – UP UNTIL MIDNIGHT 22 SEPTEMBER 2017
Personal political views online
Individuals are allowed to use social media to express personal political views provided they are not paying, or receiving payment, to publish those views.
For example, you can:
- have a profile picture or frame showing your support for a party or candidate
- post or comment on about how you think people should vote
- share posts about the election or comment on or re-post content posted by candidates and parties.
If you are expressing views on behalf of a party or third party group or organisation or you are paying to promote election-related content the election advertising rules may apply. More information about complying with the election advertising rules by third parties (which covers anyone other than an electorate candidate or a registered party) is provided in the Third Party Handbook.
Paid advertising on social media
If you pay to promote election-related content on social media the election advertising rules may apply.
To determine whether a social media post, page or account is an election advertisement, the Commission looks at the content as a whole and whether it can reasonably be regarded as encouraging voters to vote, or not to vote, for a party or candidate. We can provide a view on whether content is an election advertisement and what you may need to do to comply with the rules if you send a copy to the Commission to firstname.lastname@example.org
Voting selfies and completed ballot papers posted online
The Commission encourages people voting in advance to take and share photos of themselves with their “I voted” sticker once they’re outside the advance voting place. However, we discourage ‘selfies’ in advance voting places or taking photographs of your ballot paper as it is important that people are not disrupted when they are voting and nothing is done that could compromise the secrecy of the vote. There are ‘No Photography’ signs at advance voting places to remind voters of the importance of protecting and respecting the privacy of other voters.
Individuals can post a photograph of their completed ballot paper online during the advance voting period. However, if those photos are shared or re-posted on election day, particularly if the content is accompanied with words or images that direct other voters how they should vote there could be a breach of the election day rules.
ELECTION DAY – 23 SEPTEMBER
There are additional restrictions on election day.
On election day (from midnight on 22 September until 7pm on 23 September) posting or sharing any statement that is likely to, or intended to, influence which candidate or party a person should, or should not, vote for is prohibited. The election day rules make no exemption for the expression of personal political views online. Paid online election advertising is prohibited on election day.
Election advertising does not have to be removed from social media so long as:
- the material was published before election day
- the material is only made available to people who voluntarily access it, and
- no advertisements promoting the page or site are published on election day.
It is fine to remind people to get out to vote or that you’ve just voted. For example, filters or frames saying you have voted can be used on social media on election day. However, care should be taken not to post anything that encourages voters to vote, or not to vote, for a particular candidate or party. Posts on social media that are not connected in any way with the election can of course be posted on election day. We recommend you do not use profile pictures or frames (after midnight on 22 September) that support a candidate or party to avoid the risk of committing an offence if you post using the picture or frame on election day.
Posting a photograph of a completed ballot paper online on election day could breach the election day rules because of the prohibition under section 197 of the Electoral Act on publishing a statement that is likely to influence how another voter should vote.
The Commission does not actively monitor conduct on social media during the run up to the election or on election day, but we will respond if there are complaints.
If you are in doubt about how a rule applies or if you wish to notify the Electoral Commission of a possible breach, contact us on 0800 36 76 56 or email email@example.com