Rorts in the age of internet advertising.

Written By: - Date published: 7:57 pm, August 11th, 2010 - 14 comments
Categories: australian politics, elections - Tags:

The Australian Liberal party has been posting sponsored links on Google websites pushing voters seeking information on  independent candidates and candidates from other parties through to Liberal websites.

The Sydney Morning Herald says:

This week, a Google search by the Herald of the names of about 200 Labor, independent, Greens, Democrats and other minor party candidates returned links to Liberal Party websites in more than 90 per cent of cases.

The sponsored links appeared at the top of Google’s search results and linked to the Liberal Party website even though the links carried the names of non-Liberal candidates.

The sponsored links, which appeared at the top of Google’s search results results page, were purchased by the Liberal Party to ensure their prominence.

While the links carried various candidates’ names, they took browsers to websites spruiking either the Liberal Party’s economic credentials or Labor’s perceived failures.

This could potentially lead to lawsuit to overturn election results in marginal seats.

Electoral law expert Graeme Orr, based at the University of Queensland, said the practice meant candidates would have grounds to challenge election results based on section 329 of the Electoral Act, which prohibits publishing information “likely to mislead or deceive an elector in relation to the casting of a vote”.

The Australian Electoral Commission had a different view.

Today, a spokeswoman for the AEC said the Electoral Act was designed in a pre-internet age. The section on misleading the voter was “about the technicalities of how to cast your vote rather than information you would use to decide who to vote for”.

But Orr said the AEC’s interpretation of the act may not be the court’s interpretation, and arguing that the Google ads misled voters would be a fair argument.

Our law is much weaker when it comes to prohibition against spreading misleading information. In Australia, it runs from writ day, and contravention can be ground for overturning an election result, which would not appear to support the argument that it is just about technicalities.

In New Zealand “publishing infomation that the person knows to be false in a material particular”  is forbidden by Section 199A of the Electoral Act. It only applies on election day or the two days immediately before which does support the pre-internet interpretation. It could however overturn the election of a constituency candidate if the candidate were proven to be involved as it is a corrupt practice.

I think there should be a prohibition on spreading information which a person knows to be false. It should apply throughout the election period, and should allow for a result to be overturned.

The Liberal party has now withdrawn their google ads. The internet age has its advantages.

14 comments on “Rorts in the age of internet advertising.”

  1. Macro 1

    Typical practice by people who’s only moral is that might is right. They are the scum of the earth.

  2. Bill 2

    “I think there should be a prohibition on spreading information which a person knows to be false.”

    Oh well. That’s representative parliamentary democracy had it then, innit? No bad thing either.

    Ah, of course a politician is incapable of discerning whether they are spreading falsehoods or buying into their own bullshit again. The beauty of ignorance, eh?

  3. KJT 3

    There should be a policy of instant dismissal for any politician knowingly telling lies. That would get rid of all of them very quickly.

    • loota 3.1

      Ah they’d just run smokescreens of ‘plausible deniability’ and you’d be even worse off.

      Why do you think NACT love PPPs? Put more responsibility and knowledge in the hands of the private sector, less in the hands of the Minister in charge, makes the Government more teflon. Then Ministers do not have to lie they can just shrug and say “I have no idea, Ask the company who runs the prisons/schools/cabling/etc”.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1

        Don’t forget the other advantage that NACT likes – it keeps necessary information to make informed decisions out of the hands of the public.

  4. TightyRighty 4

    um, didn’t rochelle rees run a “hilarious” google bomb on John Key?

    • lprent 4.1

      Rocky sure did. However her googlebomb took people searching for the word ‘clueless’ to the DonKeys site. I’d describe that as a fair assessment, was done a few individuals, and was done voluntarily without a transaction exchanging hands.

      It is all quite different to paying someone (google) to advertise misleading information – which is the Libs did.

      Perhaps you can say why you think that the cases are in anyway similar so I can point out how pathetic your ‘thinking’ is (while sniggering)

    • Luxated 4.2

      Also my understanding is that the Liberal party bought sponsored links which said “” and linked to the Liberal party website. Which is more than a little different to searching for ‘clueless’ and having Key’s website come up as a result.

    • bbfloyd 4.3

      t.r.. and which election campaign was she trying to subvert? your point? if you have one that is….

  5. Draco T Bastard 5

    Spreading misleading information should be illegal – period.

  6. Lindsey 6

    Don’t forget National’s repeal of the criminal libel law after it was used by some Tory to tell lies about Helen Clark in the 1990 election. They guy was prosecuted and found guilty on 4 counts. The National govt then repealed the law.

  7. ZakC 7

    Interesting to discover whether the sponsorship (offer) was exclusive or not.. would certainly assist as to criminality or what have you..

    Another example of the Libs’ need to ‘cover’ their bet in attaining office..

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