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Online political communication—does this post need to be authorised?

Elections Digital communications Social media Australian federal election 2019 Election campaigns Australia

‘Spoken by J Jones. Authorised by S Smith, Canberra.’ This familiar phrase, spoken rapidly at the end of a TV ad, is a common feature of Australian elections, and is an example of an authorisation statement required by law to allow voters to know the source of the advertising. While these statements have traditionally been found on political advertising on TV, radio and in newspapers, recent changes to the law have expanded the range of communications considerably, with social media, internet video and streaming music now covered (but not sky writing or graffiti).

The authorisation requirements are specified by Part XXA of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, Schedule 2 of the Broadcasting Service Act 1992 and associated legislative instruments. The recent changes were created by the Electoral and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2017 and with the exception of some similar provisions which were in place for the 2017 same-sex marriage postal survey, have not yet applied for a national election.

The new requirements are complex and have many inclusions and exclusions, and failure to include the required details may lead to a civil penalty of currently up to $25,200.

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