Electoral Commission lobbying act guidance says charities must record staff use of social media

The commission says charities must be aware that organised social media activity involving employees tweeting about a campaign could count towards the spending limits

Electoral Commission
Electoral Commission

Charities must record employees’ use of social media if it is part of organised campaign activity as specified by the lobbying act, the Electoral Commission has said.

New guidance published this month by the commission sets out what organisations, including charities, need to know about their use of social media and the lobbying act.

Charities must record their spending on "regulated campaign activity" under the act, which became law earlier this year.

Organisations that spend more than £20,000 in England – or £10,000 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – in the run-up to elections on activity that could be reasonably expected to influence voting intentions must register with the Electoral Commission.

A commission spokesman said that charities should be aware that organised social media activity that involved employees tweeting about a campaign could count towards the spending limits.

The guidance says: "In many cases, the costs of posting material on a social media site – for example, sending an individual tweet or updating a Facebook page – will be negligible. However, in some cases the costs may be more significant."

It says, for example, that if an organisation employs a staff member who spends "a significant proportion of their time" creating and posting material that falls under the lobbying act regulations, then this person’s time on these activities would count towards the spending limit.

The spokesman said the regulator did not want to spell out how it monitored such activity, because it could help people evade detection.

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