Election campaigns have changed enormously in recent decades. Campaigning is no longer just about delivering the next morning’s headlines, or performing 10-second “photo-ops” and quick quotes for the evening news.
Sophisticated political campaign strategies now encompass the full gamut of social media exposure and ‘influence’, with the aim of capturing the attention of young voters and those who no longer depend on mainstream media for their information and opinions.
But when it comes to the transparency of political advertising — meaning disclosing who’s behind viral videos, slick memes, and fluid influence — some social media platforms fall far short of this. Australians have come to expect.
While all political advertisements on television, radio and in the press must clearly disclose who paid for them, it is much more difficult for the Australian Electoral Commission to police the line between political content and advertising on social media. social networks.
The sheer volume of political content on social media is astonishing: Australia’s political hashtag, #auspol, on TikTok alone has generated 447 million views. And Twitter is a steady stream of wise political cracks, bashings and promotions.
While TikTok says it doesn’t allow political advertising on its platform and SnapChat requires such ads to be “transparent, legal, and fair to our users,” there are many candidates, political parties, and organizations, including including trade unions, which publish what amounts to political campaign material.
Both Google and Facebook deserve credit for having set up searchable databases to track political ad spend on their platforms. Google’s Transparency Report and Facebook’s Ads Library allow anyone to examine how much political parties, organizations, individuals or influencers have spent on political ads during a given time period.
But there is a slew of political content on social media where posts confuse into something that may or may not be political advertising. In Victoria, for example, the state election commission earlier this year warned former basketball player Andrew Bogut that he must disclose the source of a political attack video he reposted on his Instagram page. The Australian Election Commission is currently investigating the apparent failure of some union affiliates who posted material critical of the Liberal Party on their respective TikTok accounts.
For first-time voters and those who might lack a precious vein of skepticism, it’s hard to discern what is political push, paid advertising, or random opinion. It can walk like a duck and talk like a duck, but it’s just impossible for a user to tell what it is.