NZ Herald and Internet Mana have no care in the world

Some days ago I ran a story about mobilize.org.nz being promoted as a non-partisan web site by the NZ Herald.  Of course, the web site is an Internet Mana initiative, or more specifically, an Internet Party initiative.  It employs a multi-level-marketing peer-pressure social media kind of reward system if you promise to vote.   The strong inference is, you are expected to vote for Internet Mana.

Judging by previous attempts by Kim Dotcom to game the system, it wouldn’t surprise me if the network of mobile numbers they are collecting is so that they can encourage people “in their tree” to contact their “downlines” to vote.  The more downlines you have, the more likely it is you will get some kind of reward.

Of course, if it talks like a duck, walks like a duck, it’s a duck.  We can all see this.

But the Electoral Commission, which received many complaints over this issue, is taking a “nothing to see here until something actually happens”, and “we have just warned them to be good” kind approach.

This is the letter people have received after having raised this web site and the NZ Herald article (later also promoted via Fairfax)

References to Mobilize in New Zealand Herald Article

Thank you for your enquiry regarding the references to Mobilize in the NZ Herald article entitled ‘In early to make your vote count from today’.  The article appeared online and in the hard copy edition.

It is unfortunate that the article appears to have included information about Mobilize and the mobilize website along with information about the Electoral Commission’s advance voting services and website.

The Electoral Commission is in no way associated with the Mobilize initiative and has not endorsed it.  We have raised this issue with the NZ Herald and we understand that the NZ Herald website has been amended to remove the Mobilize website reference immediately after that of the Commission.

The Electoral Act 1993 makes it clear that editorial content of a periodical, a radio, or television programme, or news media Internet site is not an election advertisement (see section 3A of the Act).  The Electoral Act does not define ‘editorial content’ but the Electoral Commission’s view is that it includes any part of the publication except advertising or advertorial.  The NZ Herald article will fall under this exemption and therefore does not breach the Electoral Act.

The Electoral Commission has no jurisdiction to regulate the editorial content of news media in terms of matters such as truth, accuracy, or bias.   These matters are the responsibility of separate complaints bodies.  If you have a complaint about the editorial content of a newspaper, magazine or periodical in circulation in New Zealand (including their websites) you may wish to complain to the Press Council (www.presscouncil.org.nz).

You have also asked about the apparent intention to provide rewards in return for the collection of pledges to vote and whether this is lawful.

We have made clear to the organisers of Mobilize that their website and any messages sent out to pledgers will be subject to the election advertising and expenditure rules.  We also advised them to consult with the Privacy Commissioner about the use of personal information collected by Mobilize.

We have also previously advised the organisers of Mobilize that if any incentives are offered for pledgers to get people to sign up to the MOBILIZE site that there is also a high likelihood there will be complaints about the offence of ‘treating’ by Internet MANA.

‘Treating’ is providing food, drink, entertainment or provision to or for persons with the intention of corruptly influencing their vote and is a criminal offence.  Section 217 of the Electoral Act provides a full description of the offence.  There are serious penalties for a person found guilty of treating including a term of up to two years imprisonment and a $40,000 fine.

The treating offence is not limited to encouraging people to vote for a candidate or party, it also includes corruptly influencing a person to vote or refrain from voting.  The Courts have previously held that the offence of treating requires a corrupt intention; that is, an intention on the part of the person treating to influence the votes of the persons treated.  The question of intention is an inference of fact which the Court has to draw.  If in any case, looking at all the circumstances, the reasonable and probable effect of the alleged treating would be to influence the result of the election, or to influence the votes of individual voters, it might well be inferred that it was the intention of the persons treating that this effect would follow.

Parties, candidates and third parties can encourage voters to enrol but they need to ensure that such initiatives do not breach the electoral rules.  The Commission advises parties to exercise caution where any incentives are offered to secure enrolments or pledges as these types of activities are likely to result in complaints.

The Mobilize terms and conditions on the website appear to suggest that:

“Mobilize is working to see whether prizes can be offered to the people who get the most other people to pledge…Terms and conditions relating to any prizes will be offered to people who are members of Internet MANA (or its component parties) at the time they pledge to vote”.  The Commission has received a number of complaints that this amounts to ‘treating’.

On the information provided, the Commission is not able to provide a definitive view about whether activities by the party or pledgers could amount to treating.  However, the Commission will be following up with the organisers of Mobilize to discuss their terms and conditions regarding rewards.

Kind regards

So, bottom line is – by the time the law (quite creatively) broken by getting “non-party” people to do the “go out and vote” peer pressure thing on the day, it will be too late.

And by the time the Electoral Commission decides there is something wrong, the Internet Mana party will have dissolved, and there will be nobody to prosecute or fine.


Do you want:

  • Ad-free access?
  • Access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • Access to daily sudoku?
  • Access to Incite Politics magazine articles?
  • Access to podcasts?
  • Access to political polls?

Our subscribers’ financial support is the reason why we have been able to offer our latest service; Audio blogs. 

Click Here  to support us and watch the number of services grow.

As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

0%