Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Is BC ready to regulate Tweets?

Does a free Google pop-up qualify as campaign advertising? When must a campaign blog disclose its allegiance? Can social media such as Facebook and Twitter ever be successfully regulated by a provincial government?

And does anyone besides Premier Gordon Campbell believe that Bill Bennett and Harry Nyce are the best prepared British Columbians to sort out these and other thorny questions about how to regulate political campaigns in the Internet age?

Bennett is Minister of Community and Rural Development. Nice is incoming president of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. They've been charged with drafting a new local election act.

Both leaders proudly hail from remote corners of the province: Bennett is a former fishing guide from Cranbrook, Nyce is Nisga'a leader from a village in the Nass Valley north of Terrace. But neither has previously demonstrated any expertise or interest in the way new media has changed politics.

As they cobble together a team to rewrite B.C.’s antiquated local election rules, Bennett and Nyce might want to investigate what’s happening across the border in Wisconsin.

That U.S. state’s Government Accountability Board this month ordered staff to draft guidelines outlining the circumstances under which the public needs to know who is paying for an online ad or Web site.

The retired judges on the Wisconsin board, mostly in their 60s, seemed puzzled during a recent meeting when discussing regulating Internet communication, according to a report from the Associated Press.

"I've been in government for 45 years and this is the first meeting I've ever been to where we've discussed tweets and widgets," board member William Eich told AP reporter Ryan J. Foley.

The AP article, entitled States weigh campaign rules for the Internet age describes the case of a Florida mayoral candidate who bought an ad that popped up online when anyone ran a Google search for his opponents' names. A rival campaign complained the ad did not have a "paid for by" disclaimer. The candidate who ordered the ad, Scott Wagman, who is fighting the complaint, has noted that the ad wasn't "paid for" until someone clicked on it.

California is also pondering new campaign guidelines for the Internet age. That state's Fair Political Practices Commission has formed a task force to study the issue and make recommendations. California candidates are facing questions about whether they must report Twitter feeds as in-kind campaign donations.

Paul Ryan, a lawyer with the Campaign Legal Center in Washington D.C., told the AP that text messages and small pay-per-click online ads could become "the campaign buttons of the Millennium Era."

The Bennett/Nyce task force is expected to issue a report by May 30, 2010, and Premier Campbell has said the resulting act will be introduced to the legislature prior to the next municipal election in 2011.

Monte Paulsen reports for The

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus