Regulations regarding ministers’ social media use remain unclear | News
According to Liisa Oviir, director of the Party Finance Monitoring Committee (ERJK), people are increasingly aware of the use of social media by politicians for campaign purposes. Accordingly, they contact the ERJK in cases where they suspect that public funds have been misused to produce social media content that promotes politicians or political parties.
Oviir said that for this reason, the ERJK has requested an assessment from the Ministry of Justice regarding how ministers are allowed to use images, which were taken in the line of duty, on their personal social media. .
Oviir cited an example of a call he received regarding the inclusion of links to ministers’ social media accounts in their profiles on the government website. However, the EJRK does not consider this a violation of the law.
“It can be dealt with in different ways, including from an ethical point of view. My personal point of view is that we must know the people who exercise public power. As there is only a link (included in their profiles on the government website) and no content that could be considered advertising, we believe that is allowed,” Oviir said.
Another case refers to the ERJK, involving former Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna (Reform), where during her tenure, the Minister’s driver was paid extra to take photos, which have been posted on social media. Also in this case, the committee also found that there were no signs of wrongdoing. “These photos were published in parallel on the ministry’s website and on the minister’s personal social media account,” Oviir said.
Photos taken with public funds cannot be used for campaign purposes
According to the Ministry of Justice, each case must be assessed on an individual basis and it is important that the photos used for campaign purposes are not those taken with public funds.
However, the line between what is acceptable and what is not remains blurred.
“Nowadays when everyone has a smartphone in their hand, if you take 10 photos of an awards ceremony and one of them goes to the ministry page and maybe another goes to a politician’s (social media) page, so that raises more and more questions,” Oviir said.
The Justice Department also pointed out that if a department shares photos of a minister attending an event, the minister is also permitted to release those same images through their own social media channels.
However, if a photographer paid from the ministry’s budget takes pictures at events that are not part of the main activities of the ministry and a minister then shares them on his own personal social media account, this could be considered as a form of donation. , which is prohibited.
In addition, according to the Department of Justice, if a minister allows information to be written about him/herself on the department’s social media account in a way that promotes a particular political party, this can also be considered a form of of political activity. However, they are authorized to promote the activities and achievements of the ministry on their own channels.
“When the ministry or an institution makes an effort (towards the achievement of an objective – editor’s note), then it was a team effort and the role of the minister was more as the head of this ministry. However, as as the initiator of a particular idea, a party is allowed to show off (and highlight its role),” said Elizabeth Mast, public relations adviser at the Justice Department.
If a ministry has posted photos on one of its social networks, they may also be shared on other platforms.
Ethical issues for voters to decide
The Department of Justice stressed that the principles of government communication require a separation between the management of government social media channels and that of political parties. This function should be exercised by the political advisers of the ministers or by the spokespersons of the parties.
According to Oviir, regulating politicians’ use of social media is a complicated task, highlighting the question of how far a minister’s campaign can be organized by his political adviser.
“On the one hand, yes, he receives a salary from the ministry’s budget. But, at the same time, distinguishing well between when he was out of work meeting constituents, or whether he was ( in a certain place) like a friend, a party colleague or a ministry employee – these things require (some kind of) social agreement,” Oviir said, adding that it was also crucial to use common sense when of the evaluation of such cases.
The Department of Justice also pointed out that the current regulation of social media is rather abstract and that it is not possible to account to the law for all possible situations that may arise.
Therefore, he felt that the EJRK should provide its advice and recommendations to ensure that a more standardized understanding of issues related to the use of social media is in place in the future.
According to Oviir, the ERJK plans to do just that, developing social media guidelines, including to reduce the committee’s workload in light of the ever-increasing amount of content being posted.
“There is no malicious desire to use public resources in every post (on social media). Many of these issues are related to ethics and will ultimately be judged by the electorate,” she said. declared.
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