Maryland Rule May Ask Political Campaigns to Store Twitter, Facebook Posts

ClickZ News - Politics & Advocacy A set of Maryland rules expected to be proposed today could require political campaigns to store all digital ads, Twitter and Facebook posts, and text messages. The proposed rules – which call for a disclosure line on digital campaign communications – are intended to ensure that voters can tell the difference between an official campaign message and a phony one. If established, the rules would stand in contrast with those recently established by Florida for its state election candidates.

Jared DeMarinis, Maryland State Board of Elections director of candidate and campaign finance, plans to submit a draft of rules for the use of social media and online ads at the board’s meeting today. As required in other campaign materials, his proposal calls for candidate committees and other political committees to include on their main Facebook profile pages standard language that denotes an association with their campaigns. Blogs or other social media accounts established for distributing videos, photos, or podcasts would also be required to feature the disclaimer.

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.

Because Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters, the state would require the authority line on micro-blog account profile pages, or on landing pages or homepages associated with the accounts. Twitter already has its own a Verified Account feature.

Online ads must bear the line, too. However, in the case of small ad units – Facebook ads may fall into this category – landing pages must prominently display the language. When ads do not enable click-through, they will have to be registered with the state, according to the draft version of the rules. The rules would not apply to supporters who aren’t coordinating with the campaign.

Florida just recently established a law for political campaign communications online, essentially alleviating the need for candidates and political committees to include disclaimers about who paid for their ads or who is behind their Twitter or Facebook accounts. It essentially covers Twitter posts, Google search ads, small display units such as those sold by Facebook, opt-in text messages, and opt-in apps. The rule would not affect Florida candidates for U.S. office.

A particularly unique component of the Maryland draft rule is a requirement for each of the campaign’s online ads to be stored in paper or a non-rewriteable electronic format for at least a year after the general election following the date when the campaign material was distributed. Text messages or social media posts – including blog posts, videos, photos, and podcasts – would have to be stored in a detailed log marking the date and content of the communication.

Violators of the rules – if made official – would be subject to penalties of Maryland election law. DeMarinis stressed the rules have yet to be voted on and could be altered.

“We wanted to make sure that the public knows which is an official communiqué and which isn’t,” he said.

Follow Kate Kaye on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.

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