Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tasmania's "Internet Commentary Guidelines" (Section 191)

Basically they suck.

Section 191 of the Tasmanian Electoral Act reads as follows

"Under section 191(1)(b) of the Electoral Act 2004, all electoral matter published on the internet between the issue of the writ for an election and the close of poll at that election must contain the name and address of the responsible person at the end.
Address means a street address (not a post office box or an electronic address) at which the responsible person resides or can be readily contacted.
Responsible person means the person taking responsibility for causing electoral matter to be published.
The Electoral Commissioner recommends that at a minimum, candidates and other persons with websites (including ‘facebook’ pages) containing electoral matter, should ensure that the name and address of the responsible person appears on each page.
Eg, an appropriate place to include authorisation on a website would be on a footer, or on a ‘facebook’ page, may be in the box where you can “write something about yourself”, which appears under the photo spot in the top left hand corner."

Not only is this practically unworkable for website and blog owners who have to check if each commentator lives in Tasmania or authorise all comments on everyone's behalf, I believe it is an attack on freedom of speech. I took a look at the Australian constitution and consituational law cases and in my opinion this law could be challenged using "implied right to freedom of communication on political matters" I'm not a lawyer so I could be way off but I think a civil liberties group should give it a go.

This law is very similar to the one SA had in effect until a media outcry. Why is there no outcry here?

Bleeter (@iBleeter) (and myself) are basically the only ones making a fuss about it on Twitter, while Bleeter has also made some brilliant posts on his blog about it. Go check them out

Seems to me whoever came up with Section 191(1)(b) needs a Section 8. (There's my M*A*S*H reference for the day.)



EDIT: Thought I should mention I've asked a question of Bartlett on Twitter. So far, no reply.

Authorised by: My Implied Right to Freedom of Communication on Political Matters. High Court, Canberra
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