Social Media and the Elections: Comelec Resolution No 9615

Social Media has come to cover several things. Today it covers the conversation and discussion we have via email, IM, web forums, blogs, games, twitter, tumblr, Facebook, Instagram and so much more. In fact, almost every month there seems to be something new, something emergent. Some people have also described these as emerging media, we just do not know for sure what is on the next turn on this digital road. A few things are sure however, the nature of whatever is coming will enable any one using it to participate and interact in a more faster and convenient way than before. It does require though one to learn how to use and probably when to use it.

The ease through which the message can be conveyed has attracted fou types of people. All of them want your attention and talk to you. First, there are your family and friends. Second, there are the marketers who seek customers. Third, there are advocates and opinion makers who want supporters. And Fourth, there are Politicians who want your vote. All of them are in this digital social mass we call cyberspace.

Not only is it easier to convey the message via Social Media but it is definetely more cheaper so far. Not free but cheaper. So much so that when marketing a brand or politician one of the favored approached is through social media – although it does not suit all depending on the target audience and the nature of the politician or the product.

So it is no surprise that during elections and situations dealing with public opinion the different political parties and players engaged in social media. But they do not have the sole monopoly here. It must be remembered that the Internet: cyberspace: social media has evolved that anyone with an opinion, connection to the Internet and the will to engage will engage. And this is a good thing. Ultimately, it keeps things in check for now.

Recently the Comelec issued Resolution No. 9615 covering the use of the Internet and Cyberspace during the Elections – in particular for campaign and propaganda efforts – to be specific to see the cost of a digital campaign – with the ultimate goal of keeping things in check and keep a level playing field. And because of this they invited several individuals to attend a forum to learn what can and cannot be done.

Remember, social media as we call it now requires learning. And the forum was a place to share knowledge, experiences and opinion.

The discussion was a lively and frank discussion. Revealing what and how social media was and is being used for marketing and campaigning in the recent years from the most obvious things like ads to less obvious advertorials via images, sounds, moving images, and text in all channels of social media channels.

The Comelec’s main interest was in the money spent on a candidates digital campaign. This something required and stated in the law.

A reading of Resolution No. 9615, will reveal that commentary/opinion/preferences on blogs would “not be considered acts of election campaigning or partisan political activity unless expressed by government officials in the Executive Department, the Legislative Department, the Judiciary, the Constitutional Commissions, and members of the Civil Service.” [Source]

As such bloggers or even online commentators would not be election campaigning. Unless, they are being paid for it or I would guess part of the political campaign of a candidate , in which case it must be declared that it is so. In other words disclosure: transparency.

In which case this suits me just fine.

There maybe those of a different opinion regarding this resolution. It must be remembered that social media is composed of different people, each has his or her purpose and each has his or her belief. In any case, to follow how social media is used for election campaigning and propaganda one has to follow only the money trail.

The Central Figure in Online Political Campaign

Whether or not a candidate is a novice or even an expert on social media, his or her campaign will always have as its focus a person, a company or even companies handling its social media campaign. Whether group or individual, lets call this the candidates Digital Team. And its the task of this team to make the presence of their candidate known. They are the coordinators and disbursers for Social Media.

The Cost of an Online Political Campaign

Cost could include several and many things from Internet real estate – like websites, design, hosting, and management services; consultants; digital influencers; event organizing and even advertorials through bloggers, twitters and almost anyone in Cyberspace.

The Difference Between a Commentary and an Advertorial

Of course not every opinion said or written is an advertorial or a product of digital astroturfing. The are paid for and they leave a paper trail – contracts signed and even receipts. All of which the candidate is duty bound to report to the Comelec. Even ads with big companies have a paper trail and there are always two parties with the records – and one ot them the Candidate is duty bound to report it to the Comelec.

Thus it is important when monitoring cost is to focus on the agents/organizers of campaigns. Again these may be PR or even Digital Marketing Companies, Social Media Consultants or even the candidates social media offier. And to do this campaign is going to cost the candidate it is not free. As Thenardier sang, “Everything has a price.”

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