Social media remains gray area for poll body

SOCIAL media is still a gray area for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) despite its rampant use in the 2010 national and the coming 2013 elections.

Jose Nick Mendros, Comelec regional director, said social networking accounts of politicians are not covered by Comelec Resolution 9615 discussing the rules and regulations in the implementation of Republic Act 9006 or the Fair Elections Act.

“The law in itself does not measure social media because when the law was created there is no Facebook or Twitter or any social networking sites,” he said.

Mendros said the issue was already answered by Comelec director for Election Information Division James Jimenez claiming “there is no way that the Comelec can measure social media especially if the Facebook account is private.”

The newly appointed regional director said the Facebook account is a personal account which the politician can use as a form of free expression such as to criticize their opponents or speak of their advocacy.

“The Implementing Rules and Regulations does not mention nor does it specify anything regarding social media because there is no law that will provide the Comelec that parameters on how to regulate social media,” he said.

While the Comelec recognizes the importance of regulating the use of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, he said they cannot implement provisions that are not yet approved by House of Representatives.

He said it is Congress that should come up with a law to amend the Fair Elections Act for it to include provision on the use of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, among others.

In the IRR promulgated by the Comelec, only online campaign advertisements were included for regulation and will be monitored by the Campaign Finance Unit.

The same unit will monitor all online advertisements in social media such micro blogging, unlike in the past elections where the Commission does not have the mechanism to monitor politicians in cyberspace.

In Resolution No. 9615, Comelec included “online election propaganda” in the implementing rules and regulation of Republic Act 9006.

Under the resolution, the Comelec also imposed stricter rules on the airtime limit allowed for the political propaganda of each candidate and party in television and radio.

Now that it is emphasized that political advertisements in any medium such as online will be monitored as well as those providing online services will be monitored by the commission.

Comelec resolution 9615 has defined several terms that include “blog” and “collective blog” referring to websites on which an individual or group of users, respectively, record news, opinions, and information, in varying degrees of regularity.

The resolution also defines a “micro-blog” as a blogging format which allows users to exchange small elements of content – referred to variously as posts or status updates – such as short sentences, individual images, or links to video material uploaded to the Internet.

Online advertisements, according to the recent Comelec ruling, states that whether procured by purchase, or given free of charge must not be published more than three times a week per website during the campaign period. Also, the exhibition or display of the online advertisement for any length of time, regardless of frequency, within a 24 hour period, will be construed as one instance of publication.

Referring to social media as a new technology, the Comelec en banc is still pondering if it will issue an amendatory decision on social media use in order to take advantage of the Fair Elections Act and avoid other politicians from over using this new media in the forthcoming polls.
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