Police investigation of Sean Plunket’s Election Day tweets a waste of time

KeallHauled

Chris Keall

Investigating Sean Plunket's tweets would be a waste of time and money

Do the laws around election day advertising, broadcasting and campaigning need an overhaul?

Yes
55%
No
45%
Total votes: 274

The Electoral Commission has referred four Election Day "social media incidents" to police.

Two of the incidents are tweets by TOP communications director Sean Plunket (the commission would not name the perpetrators of the other posts).

He now faces a fine of up to $20,000.

I’m not a huge fan of Mr Plunket, who made various boorish tweets during the campaign, enabling TOP leader Gareth Morgan’s worst instincts.

But TOP paid a price for those, as people interested in its policy turned away.

Investigating his tweets on September 23 (a couple of lame dad-jokes incorporating the word “top”) will be a waste of police time and money.

Crown Law can pore over his wordplay, and Sergeant Plod can try to find a voter who was actually influenced by it. Regardless of their success, recent history indicates the result will be a warning letter.

Above: Exhibit A for the prosecution

The Electoral Act (1993) forbids the publishing of “any statement advising or intended or likely to influence any elector as to the candidate or party for whom the elector should or should not vote,” before polls close on election day.

If he is of a mind, Mr Plunket could probably argue the toss over whether a tweet constitutes publishing (the act’s quaint language refers to such media as the “loudspeaker … cinematograph or television apparatus”).

But there are a couple of broader issues here that it will be worth the next government reviewing:

1. More than 1.2 million people cast an advance vote. That’s more than the number who voted on election day when the advertising and broadcast rules protected tender minds. We need consistency (although, if nothing else, it was quite restful to have a few hours without political braying on September 23).

2.  People can refrain from tweeting on Election Day but social media platforms don’t stick to chronological representation. When you open Twitter, for example, it shows you a series of “In case you missed it” tweets, and Facebook often shows you the posts it thinks you’ll be most interested in (which could be from the previous day) rather than the latest.  

Any review that does take place will have to consider that social media is more difficult to control than a cinematograph or television apparatus.


POSTSCRiPT: Other naughty election day tweets included:


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10 Comments & Questions

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And just why is any police investigation in law breaking a waste of time.
That is precisely why we have Police force even though they need reminding of that fact every now and again..
As for Plunket, you say he is TOP's communication manager...hell, he should have and likely did know better, but being a media clown chose to ignore it.

(Edited)

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Selwyn Pellett has a “shinny” red bike?

I hope he didn’t forget to vot.

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Example #6548 of our laws being either out of date lacking common sense not being fit for purpose .................................the list goes on.

Mind you not surprising when the law is made by people who are both a distant stranger to common sense and the mentality of the hard working honest tax paying citizen.

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Everyone repeat after me: Twitter is not media

Say it again until it sinks in

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You can tell me that here, or down at the station.

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It will take too long to soak the bus ticket.

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Yes it's just a waste of police time, and takes them away from important police duties, you know like traffic revenue collecting.

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Can you just comment on the story at hand, yes it is a waste of police time. End. There is no need to denigrate the police they are not making the decisions

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While we're here though, perhaps they could invest less in speed cameras and more in a bunch of red light cameras in Auckland central?

Traffic lights appear to provide advice that's completely optional in the eyes of Auckland drivers these days.

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I think you will find that the police will be making a lot of decisions. To think otherwise is just naive.

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