The Federal Election Commission has no rules about how political candidates or organizations use social media channels like Twitter or Facebook. But the state of Maryland, not far from Washington, D.C., might soon.
Jared DeMarinis, director of candidate and campaign finance for Maryland's State Board of Elections, plans to submit his proposal for new rules applying to use of social channels by Maryland candidates at the next meeting of the board, June 3. As they do in other campaign materials, his proposal calls for candidates to include on their main Facebook profile pages standard language that denotes an association with their campaigns.
Because Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters, the state would create a system to authenticate official campaign accounts, similar to Twitter's own Verified Account feature.
Maryland requires campaigns to include the phrase, "By Authority of" followed by the campaign or organization committee name and name of the campaign treasurer, in campaign materials like direct mail or on websites.
"When I started holding candidate training sessions [about state election regulations], questions came up about these [social media platforms] and I knew there was a need for regulations," DeMarinis told ClickZ News.
His reasoning behind the verification - besides the fact that posts and profiles on social media sites serve as campaign communications like mail or TV advertising - is to protect both candidates and voters. For candidates, the "by authority of" line and Twitter account verification could help prevent opponents from spoofing pages or accounts in the hopes of damaging another's reputation.
DeMarinis also believes voters will be served by making social accounts more official. "To be an informed electorate, you have to know the sources behind [these communications] as well," he said.
The proposal will be subject to a vote of the board, and would require a supermajority - four of five votes in its favor - to pass. If it passes, the regulation could affect several races taking place in Maryland this year, including elections for governor, the state's General Assembly, eight U.S. Congressional races, and a U.S. Senate race.
"This is the big year," said DeMarinis.
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Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.
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