How will Election Commission in Nepal regulate political advertising?
Facebook has banned political ads both from Trump and Biden’s campaigns flagging them as inappropriate. There is still uncertainty about elections in Nepal. Nevertheless, it is time to think and draft regulations for the upcoming Nepal election.
These political ad bans do not affect any other country. This ban applies (at the time of drafting this article) to Georgia Election and related ads only. It is appreciable how Facebook has made decisions to maintain peace and harmony on Georgia Runoff.
Since Nepal is headed towards an election, we all are aware that there will be huge campaigns on social media. The campaign regulation from the Election Commission in Nepal still does not speak for or against social media campaigns. The Election (Offences and Punishment) Act, 2063 (2007) does not mention or cite anything related to social media and its use in the upcoming election.
In the last election also, there were allegations of misuse of the information in political campaigns. But there were no proper regulations because of which the offenses were never filed into court.
In the same context, Nepal Rastra Bank has announced the possibility of issuing a dollar card worth 500$. This will create more possibilities of use of the card in a political campaign unlikely in earlier elections.
Looking at the US election, the case of Cambridge Analytics, and the current political ad ban in Georgia, it is clear that social media has a major influence on Election. Nepal has an estimated 8,700,000 Facebook users in Dec/2018, which is 29.8% of the total population. This user base can be the tipping point for the win or loss in the election because of easy access and the possibility of manipulation online.
Law has not recognized Political advertising in social media as a form of campaigning. This eliminates the chances that the Election Commission will come forward with regulation for social media campaigns in the election of Nepal.
It is high time for the election commission in Nepal to start discussing with stakeholders about regulating the advertisements for the upcoming election.