Consultation on Review of Electoral Arrangements

The Government in November 2017 issued a consultation paper on review of electoral arrangements. It sought public views on three issues, viz. the regulation of election advertisements published through the Internet (including social media), the regulation of election surveys, and the polling hours. These matters were said to have been raised after the Government considered the report made by the Electoral Affairs Commission, and the views provided by the Legislative Council Panel on Constitutional Affairs and the community.

With the assistance of the Constitutional Affairs and Human Rights Committee, the Council has reviewed the Consultation Paper and produced a submission on the above issues. Among other things, the Council considers that if a website, including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Weibo or any other social media, is used by a candidate in an election or his or her political party for election campaign, such expression for political views should be treated as usual campaign activities and should fall under, inter alia, the regulation on election expenses. Where an election advertisement posted on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media site is ‘liked’, ‘shared’, ‘retweeted’ or ‘reposted’ by another person, the individual content appearing elsewhere online will not come under regulation, unless the individual who has expressed the views has made or received payment in respect of the publication of those views.

Apart from the use of social media platform, the Council has also asked the Government to examine the use of instant messaging applications, such as Whatsapp and WeChat for the purpose of election advertisements.

The submission of the Law Society on this matter is available at

http://www.hklawsoc.org.hk/pub_e/news/submissions/20180105.pdf

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