Use of Social Media

This page provides you with an overview of the rules around the use of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, by candidates, parties and others in an election campaign.  More information about the election campaign rules for candidates, parties and third parties can be found in the Candidate Handbook, Party Secretary Handbook and Third Party Handbook.

Exemption for personal political views

There is an exemption to the definition of an election advertisement under the Electoral Act for the publication of personal political views by an individual on the Internet or other electronic medium, provided the individual does not make or receive payment for publishing those views.  Individuals expressing personal political views on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, are covered by this exemption and will not need to include a promoter statement or get written authorisation before publishing views in support of a party or candidate.

An individual sharing an election advertisement on social media (i.e. ‘liking’ or ‘retweeting’ a post) is not publishing an election advertisement for the purposes of the election advertising rules provided the exemption for personal political views applies. The individual sharing the advertisement does not need to ensure a promoter statement is included in the advertisement.

Where social media is used by a candidate, party or third party to express party or third party political views, or where the person pays to promote or publish the post, the exemption for personal political views exemption does not apply.

Election advertisements using social media

To determine whether a social media post, page or account is an election advertisement, the Commission looks at the content as a whole.  For example, to decide whether a political party’s Facebook page is an election advertisement, the Commission looks at the Facebook page as a whole, including the content the party is responsible for publishing such as the party’s posts and photos.  Generally, where individuals post comments on a party’s Facebook page the personal political views exemption is likely to apply to those posts.

Where the social media page or account is an election advertisement, a promoter statement does not need to be included in each photo or post on the site, provided the promoter statement is contained on the home page or the page that contains the election advertising.  On Facebook we recommend you include the promoter statement in the ‘About’ section.  For sites such as Twitter and Instagram the promoter statement can be included on the home page for your account.

Paid advertising on social media

Where you pay for an election advertisement to appear unsolicited on another person’s page, for example, a promoted post or banner advertisement on Facebook or a promoted tweet on Twitter, a promoter statement must be included on the advertisement itself.  You cannot rely on a link back to another page which contains a promoter statement.  If there are a limited number of characters to include a promoter statement on the advertisement it is acceptable to abbreviate the promoter statement, for example ‘Promoted by Anthony Secretary, 111 Any Street, Auckland’ could be abbreviated to ‘A Secretary, 111 Any St, AKLD’.

The cost of election advertising that encourages voters to vote for a candidate or party published during the regulated period for the 2014 General Election (20 June to 19 September 2014) will be an election expense.  More information on how election expenses must be accounted for can be found in the Candidate Handbook, Party Secretary Handbook and Third Party Handbook.

Photography in a voting place and sharing photographs on social media

While the Electoral Commission encourages people to take and share photos of themselves with their ‘I’ve voted’ sticker once they’re outside the voting place and unlikely to interrupt or inconvenience other voters, the Commission will be putting up ‘No taking photos’ signs inside all voting places and advance voting places. 

The increased interest in voters taking 'selfies' inside voting places raises concerns about congestion and disturbance in voting places and can breach other rules in the Electoral Act regarding campaigning on election day and protecting the secrecy of voting. 

Voting Place Managers have to ensure that voting proceeds smoothly, that voters are not impeded, and that order is maintained in voting places.  Voting places are for the purpose of voting and people should not remain in the voting place for other purposes.  The increased interest in voters taking 'selfies' inside voting places has the potential to create congestion and disturbance and for this reason Managers will be putting up ‘no photography signs’. 

Publishing anything on election day that could potentially influence another voter is strictly prohibited, and photos taken earlier in the voting period that are shared, re-shared or reposted on election day could fall foul of the Electoral Act.

If a person posts an image of their completed ballot paper on social media on election day or in the three days prior to election day this is likely to be an offence under section 197 of the Act, which carries a potential penalty of a fine not exceeding $20,000. Section 197 of the Act prohibits a range of activities including:

  • the publication of any statement on election day that is likely to influence voters (section 197(1)(g); and
  • the distribution of an imitation ballot paper on election day or the 3 days before election day indicating the candidate/party for whom any person should vote or having thereon any other matter likely to influence a voter.

It also potentially exposes the voter’s friends to the risk of breaching the rules if they share, re-share or repost the voter’s ‘selfie’ on election day. 

As there are risks of congestion and disturbance to other voters and risks with publishing or distributing material that includes a ballot paper, particularly in a medium where material will continue to be published– the Commission will not allow voters to take photos inside voting places.  We will be placing ‘no photos’ signs up in voting places.  Returning Officers will still be able to give permission to candidates for filming in voting places.  Permission for candidates will only be given on the condition that there is no filming behind voting screens, no filming of completed or uncompleted voting papers, and no activities that disrupt voting in the voting place.   

Social media on election day

There are additional restrictions on election day.  On election day (from midnight on 19 September until 7pm on 20 September) there is a general prohibition of the publication of any statement that is likely to influence which candidate or party a person should, or should not, vote for. 

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.  

If you use social media, do not post messages on election day that could breach these rules.  The Commission recommends candidates and parties temporarily deactivate their Facebook campaign pages to avoid the risk of supporters committing an offence by posting on your page.  For other forms of social media where others can post comments the Commission recommends that where possible security settings are changed so that other people cannot post messages before 7pm on election day. 

Posts on social media that are not connected in any way with the election can of course be posted on election day. 

Last updated: 10 September 2014