Thursday, March 17, 2005

No more anonymous political opinions in Australian Blogs

In this article - Bloggers face clampdown - Misha Schubert writes:
Bloggers and spammers could be forced to put their names to political commentary in a bid to close a loophole in the nation's electoral laws

(Via John Quiggin)

The relevant laws applicable are Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth) ss 287, 328, and 331.

Section 287 defines "advertisements relates to election if they contain electoral matter". Electoral matter means "matter which is intended or likely to affect voting in an election", and I suppose would include forms of political commentary, including satire.

The term "advertisement" itself, however, is not defined in legislation. Turning to the online dictionary: 2. A notice, such as a poster or a paid announcement in the print, broadcast, or electronic media, designed to attract public attention or patronage. There is no requirement that the person who made the advertisement to have any direct relationship to the product itself. However, it will be difficult to impress a court that a cartoon drawn by Leahy for instance would fit the description of an "advertisement" in the ordinary sense of the word, unless he was closely affiliated with the political party the cartoon speaks for.

Section 328 requires all advertisements to carry the name and address of the person who authorized the advertisement, and the name of the printer.

Section 331 requires advertisements in publications or journals which contain electoral matter to include the word "advertisement" in the heading. This applies regardless of whether consideration was given or not, and regardless of whether the publication is sold or given free.

There are two questions arising from these matters:

a) whether the websites are more akin to opinion pieces in newspapers, or more like political advertisements, or more like a letters to the editor section in a newspaper.

b) whether we are trying to shoehorn something as formless as websites into the known forms of publications. After all, all commentary seek to influence opinions and actions.


Blogger Billy Jones said...

We're being threatened with the same thing here in the USA. I hope you manage to beat this.

1:26 pm  

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