Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Meet the New Bob

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  • Craig Ranapia,

    I'm not sure how effective this would be in New Zealand though, its more likely to alienate voters than persuade them.

    Well, yes... just as I see no need to change during campaign season my SOP that unsolicited mail is thrown out unread. If political parties have such a poor understanding of their (for want of a better term) target market they spend a fortune of communications strategies that just piss people off, then more fool them. Personally, I'd be quite happy if Labour took the Bungy Baby billboards out for another spin, 'cause I don't know anyone who didn't find them confusing and a bit creepy. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    It seems to me what might be necessary here is a set of guidelines for how the law is intended to be interpreted.

    Good idea. Annette King, apparently speaking on the basis of official advice, had a very different on the bill's meaning to Bill English.

    I still think there are some significant flaws to be fixed. As I've said in this morning's post, I support the objectives of the bill, but it's really trying my patience.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    And I can't disagree just his rantings may have an impact on innocent lives rather than meaningless BS he's known for.

    Yup. It's Bomber that's doing that, rather than, people who had what sounds like a reasonably open meeting at which details of what people had done were discussed. Not sure what legal advice that was based on.

    Or indeed, the actual things that people did/talked about which the police have recorded, that's not going to impact on their lives either.

    It's Bomber saying "this is bad shit, people are going to be pissed when they find this out." That's the incriminating evidence.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    The practice of having to have your real name and address on your political blog would have a very definite chilling effect, particularly on those who maintain pseudonyms now because of possible consequences such as impact on their employment or stalking.

    Well, there's the other side of that equation Margaret. I don't think it's entirely coincidental that some of the worse toxic waste on the blogisphere - including the lefty troll over at Farrar's place who repeatedly accused me of giving 'support' to a 'pedophile' recently - do so behind the cloak of anonymity. OTOH, I can shrug that kind of crap off, but definitely don't want to publicise my home and/or snail mail address any more than it already is.

    It seems to me what might be necessary here is a set of guidelines for how the law is intended to be interpreted. Something like the fact sheets that some of those organisations (like the organisation Deborah Morris heads these days, sorry I can't remember the name) put out during the s59 debate.

    Intentions and three bucks fifty will buy you a cup of coffee, and a fact sheet doesn't mean shit if you find yourself in the middle of a test case that goes against you. I'm about half way through the select committee report - and noting reports of more amendments to come - and while I'm sure political parties, lobbyists, MSM outlets and big NGOs are going to have access to the best legal advice money can buy... I'm still hellishly confused. And I can't quite shake the suspicion that there's a lot of *cough* carefully designed strategic ambiguity laid into the bill.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    While I accept that this is not the intention of legislation, I do find it odd that I could stand in Aotea Square and shout at the top of my meagre lungs to never vote for Labour, but not be allowed to use a megaphone to do the same thing - and yet surely the next grade on is saying it into a radio transmitter and then TV? How do you draw lines? Means of broadcast seems a strangely "hard-coded" way to do it. "Reasonable number of people reached" perhaps? Regularity? Or do we move this type of election advertising to a $$ spent control too (per message presumedly)?

    I can see flaws in all means of trying to control it - the current reading of the bill seems to be disregarding means of transmission (or at least looking to cover them all) and looking to capture intent of the commentary but that then takes you back up into right to make personal comment.

    Guess it just reinforces the view that the grey lines become important ones and perhaps this type of thing takes much more time, many more people and much broader thinking...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    It's Bomber saying "this is bad shit, people are going to be pissed when they find this out." That's the incriminating evidence.

    Well, actually, what he said was (I paraphrase) "people are going to be pissed off, the police were obliged to take an interest, but I believe what was said to be no more than arrogant boasting".

    And Shep, your practice of impugning and demeaning people from behind a pseudonym is bearing out the unflattering stereotypes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Shep Cheyenne,

    Craig that sort of attack shud have them axed from the debate I would've thought.

    Not for one moment putting any weight in the accusation but to support a person isn't the same as to condone their actions.

    Since Oct 2007 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Shep Cheyenne,

    Russell why is it you want the evidence to come out prior to judgement but in the next breath support Bombers accusations?

    Since Oct 2007 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Finn Higgins,

    Not for one moment putting any weight in the accusation but to support a person isn't the same as to condone their actions.

    Russell why is it you want the evidence to come out prior to judgement but in the next breath support Bombers accusations?

    Do you even read the stuff you post?

    Wellington • Since Apr 2007 • 209 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    Tim:

    That may be so, but I don't think every blogger can be so sure---not without legal advice, anyway.

    Sure. If, for example, you are a party contractor and your blog is just a mouthpiece for a party spin machine, then you should probably consider your position. But ordinary citizens seeking to participate in the democratic conversation have nothing to be concerned about.

    Not true. I've already quoted section 53(1), which makes it clear that you have to disclose your name and address even if you spend absolutely nothing

    In case you missed it, I was talking fairly specifically about blogs.
    s53 (1) applies only to "election advertisements". And a personal blog is, by definition, not an election advertisement.

    As for applying it to non-blogs, such disclosure has always been the case. The Brethren, for example, were required to disclose (and this is how they were uncovered, despite the fact that they'd falsified their addresses).

    While you raise fears around political revenge as a result of disclosure, I don't recall any stories about it last election, or the election beforehand.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1716 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    So pretty much only the anonymous political blogger gets affected?

    No. As I've already said several times, personal blogs are not "election advertisements", therefore there is no requirement for disclosure. If you're just running a blog, you're completely unaffected by the law.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1716 posts Report Reply

  • Shep Cheyenne,

    Finn it's not the support of Bomber I take issue with but rather the cherry picked quotes.

    The issue I have with Bomber is his statement of picking up guns....

    Where he convicted the innocent of terrorisim.

    It would be good if he recanted on that now that the charges are not going forward.

    I will stop on this now - just reacting to his repeated claims yesty on RNZ.

    Since Oct 2007 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Tim McKenzie,

    s53 (1) applies only to "election advertisements". And a personal blog is, by definition, not an election advertisement.

    Section 5 gives the definition of "election advertisement". A blog with political opinions could very easily fall under the definition in subsection (1). Subsection (2) provides various exemptions, including paragraph (g), for non-commercial blogs. What if a blog has advertisements?

    As for applying it to non-blogs, such disclosure has always been the case.

    Not for protest marchers. And if the disclosure regulations were already sufficient, then why do we need this bill?

    While you raise fears around political revenge as a result of disclosure, I don't recall any stories about it last election, or the election beforehand.

    I'm curious. Why do you use a pseudonym? Why don't you think someone who has ads on their blog might also want to use a pseudonym?

    Tim
    <><

    Lower Hutt • Since Apr 2007 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • Margaret B,

    Thanks Idiot Savant for clarifying about personal blogs.

    However, I could forsee some wrangling about what is a "personal blog" as opposed to one that is affiliated with a party, due to the author being a member of a particular party. Take for example Tony Milne's blog - he's an open member of Labour, and while I for one read his blog as very much his personal opinions others frequently lambast him for being a party hack. Now if Tony is a candidate in the next election would he need to put authorisation on his blog, ie name and address?

    And if he would then wouldn't it also apply to those who write pseudonymously but are actually members/candidates/campaign managers/pollsters/whatevers for a particular party in real life?

    I have no idea whatsoever, but I'd be interested in some possible answers.

    One thing we learnt (I hope) in the s59 debate is that you can have a lot of legal opinions flying around that conflict. Having a legal opinion that says X does not necessarily mean that X will be the definite outcome. But I have taken a lot of heart from the fact sheets I already mentioned that were put out on s59 - because they have turned out to be right about how the law is being used. Surely a little light on the subject, by way of a similar mechanism, would be a good thing?

    Craig, on the issue of people hiding behind pseudonyms to attack others, I agree with you that for some people using an imaginary name (or indeed none at all) does seem to be a licence to troll, threaten and generally display a complete inability to play well with others. But it doesn't mean everyone who posts anonymously does it. There are many examples on the NZ political blogs of those who act responsibly (although I concede that those who only comment, rather than actually blog, tend to be far more rabid and unpleasant).

    Also if you want to you can just use a pseudonym that looks like a real name, and everyone will assume you are using your real name when in fact you are not. I assumed Shep Cheyenne was a real name and have no evidence to prove otherwise.

    It is totally not ok to write that kind of stuff about you btw (the pedophile comments you mentioned earlier). I would feel sick if it was me and no one should have to put up with it, whether they can shrug it off or not. I would have hoped that moderation would have put an end to it.

    Since Oct 2007 • 59 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    DPF's mods are mysterious in their ways...

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    What if a blog has advertisements?

    Don't. It's ugly, and it pisses off your readers, particularly if its one of those irritating flash ones that eats your CPU. And while they can be blocked (I use AdBlock, for example, so I just don't see them most of the time), it's still a hassle having to download and install just to screen out your crap.

    But seriously, if you have ads, and they're intended to make actual money rather than just be a way of pissing off your readers, you may be "commercial". But then you may also be a "news media website", and also excluded. During the last election, I took the position that I was covered by s221A (4) of the Electoral Act 1993 (which exempts "news or comments" - basically to allow the media to report the news). The Electoral Commission seemed happy with this. OTOH, some other sites, with explicit party links thought they were safer having a disclosure statement.

    Again, your average dinky Blogger or Wordpress site with some irritating crap placed by AdSense is highly unlikely to be affected. It's only really a problem if you're blowing thousands a year on hosting. And if you're doing that, essentially to run a party political broadcast, disclosure seems entirely justified.

    I'm curious. Why do you use a pseudonym?

    Because I like to keep my private life private. Also, I place a high value on infruiating Craig Ranapia :)

    (The fact that I've been using this name for nigh-on 15 years is also a factor).

    Why don't you think someone who has ads on their blog might also want to use a pseudonym?

    Indeed they might. But if they're basically running a party political broadcast, they have no more right to do so than they would on a hardcopy political pamphlet under existing law.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1716 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Thanks Idiot Savant for clarifying about personal blogs.

    However, I could forsee some wrangling about what is a "personal blog" as opposed to one that is affiliated with a party

    Agreed on both the thanks and the follow-up problem. Kiwiblog comes to mind as a blog that is totally open about it's bias towards National (although I actually think DPF is more aligned with Rodney Hide than any other particular politician).

    I'm still interested in the answer to the EVEN IF question though. What is the real ramification if some blogs got covered? Is it solely that they will have to put their address in there? Or is there annoying paperwork and accounting that has to happen? Or is this a debate about the freedom of anonymous speech?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    However, I could forsee some wrangling about what is a "personal blog" as opposed to one that is affiliated with a party, due to the author being a member of a particular party.

    That is indeed going to be an issue as the web becomes more of a feature in campaigns. And I expect the Electoral Commission to issue some guidance. As for your example, I think its a fairly hard and fast rule that a candidate's blog is advertising for them, and must be disclosed and declared as an expense. Party members, officials, pollsters etc will depend on the nature of their blog. But I'd think that someone's campaign officials running an online party political broadcast should probably disclose, and depending on the position, may very well have to declare it as a campaign expense as well. Mere party members, OTOH, won't face any real restrictions.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1716 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    Kiwiblog comes to mind as a blog that is totally open about it's bias towards National

    Reading between the lines on all of the above, Kiwiblog may very well be affected by the law, depending onhis hosting costs. Though IIRC he simply disclosed last election.

    Public Address shouldn't have any problems - it's a "news media website", and thus exempt.

    I'm still interested in the answer to the EVEN IF question though. What is the real ramification if some blogs got covered?

    So, if they're not covered by the blog exemption, and are insufficiently independent to slip in as a "news media website"?

    They would have to disclose the name and address of their "promoter". And, if their total expenses (basically hosting) are more than $12,000 a year, would need to register and do some paperwork.

    Keep in mind that the commerical value of Blogger or Wordpress hosting is nil. It's not a special deal you're getting - everyone gets it free. So only very large blogs will be affected.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1716 posts Report Reply

  • Tim McKenzie,

    Again, your average dinky Blogger or Wordpress site with some irritating crap placed by AdSense is highly unlikely to be affected. It's only really a problem if you're blowing thousands a year on hosting.

    Again: not true. How many times do I have to say it? Section 53(1) requires disclosure of your name and address even if you don't spend a cent on your blog.

    What is the real ramification if some blogs got covered? Is it solely that they will have to put their address in there? Or is there annoying paperwork and accounting that has to happen?

    Subsection (2) of section 53 explains ways in which you can be "entitled to promote an election advertisement". One of these ways is by being the financial agent of a (registered) third party. This is where the paperwork comes in. Another way is by spending no more than $1000 on issues specific to a particular electorate, and no more than $12000 in total. This is much better than what it replaced, which required you to make a declaration under the Oaths and Declarations Act to the effect that you would not spend more than $500 on an electorate or $5000 in total.

    Tim
    <><

    Lower Hutt • Since Apr 2007 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • Margaret B,

    We seem to have two mutually exclusive interpretations here:

    A - Tim saying that s 53 (1) requires disclosure of name and address regardless of how much the blog costs (or doesn't) (I'm confused, are blogs special here, or is Tim saying this applies to all political stuff that isn't explicitly excluded on the basis of being "news media"?)

    OR

    B - Idiot Savant saying that blogs (and indeed other stuff?) won't be caught (for the purposes of disclosure of name and address) unless they are either
    i) commercialised by dint of heavy advertising (and not saved by being "news media" as PA is), or
    ii) cost more than $12,000 a year to run, if not targeted to a specific electorate, or
    iii) cost more than $1000 a year to run, if targeted to a specific electorate, or
    iv) reasonably directly affiliated to a party, eg the blog of a candidate.

    Have I got those summaries right?

    And how on earth do we reconcile the difference?!

    Since Oct 2007 • 59 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Again: not true. How many times do I have to say it? Section 53(1) requires disclosure of your name and address even if you don't spend a cent on your blog.

    Huh? 53(1) says:

    (1) No person may, during a regulated period, publish or cause or permit to be published any election advertisement unless—
    (a) the advertisement contains a statement that sets out the name and address of the promoter of the advertisement; and
    (b) the promoter is entitled to promote the advertisement.

    Above that, Section 51 (2) [my emphasis] says:

    Section 51 (2)
    (2) The following 〈publications〉 are not election advertisements:

    30
    (da) any editorial material, other than advertising material, published on a news media website that is written by, or selected by or with the authority of, the editor or person responsible for the website solely for the purpose of informing, enlightening, or entertaining readers ...

    10
    (g) the publication by an individual, on a non-commercial basis, on the Internet of his or her personal political views (being the kind of publication commonly known as a blog).

    So what is written in news media publications and personal blogs is specifically ruled out as an advertisement. And if you're not publishing an advertisement, you don't need to supply name and address.

    I think this clearly applies to comments as well, but Graeme begs to differ.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    Again: not true. How many times do I have to say it? Section 53(1) requires disclosure of your name and address even if you don't spend a cent on your blog.

    Only if you are "commercial". And I think that anyone arguing that a freehosted blog which earns next to nothing through AdSense is "commercial" will be laughed out of court (and if they're not, you can always fall back on being a "news media website").

    But look, if you want to play it safe, disclose. If you're that sure you're not covered by the news and comment exemption, you'd have to do it anyway under existing law, so the EFB changes nothing.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1716 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The above also means I could run actual political advertisements (which i'd consider on a case by case basis) if they are properly constituted, with the name and address of the promoter.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    ACT had some guy in a van driving around doing this during the last election ... I'm not sure how effective this would be in New Zealand though, its more likely to alienate voters than persuade them.

    Ask John McGrath, who drove around Wellington for days blasting out silly songs and "vote for me" slogans, and all he got was 7th place and a nomination for Supervillain of the year.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1040 posts Report Reply

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