Candidates must adhere to new social media rules
A committee of state lawmakers today approved regulations that will change how much information candidates must include on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The new rules take effect in two weeks.
Candidates must begin including an authority line -- a declaration of approval that lists their campaign treasurer -- on their official campaign pages on Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites that have exploded in popularity this election season.
The rules do not mean that each 140-character "tweet" has to contain that detailed infomation. Rather, it has to be on the "landing page" that corrals all of the tweets for a specific candidate.
Both major gubernatorial contenders, Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., are already including authority lines. Check out the bio section and of their Twitter pages to see what all candidates must now begin doing.
"This is very new," said Jared DeMarinis, director of the division of candidacy and campaign finance for the State Board of Elections, which crafted the regulations. "We're taking the rules as they are today and applying them to Internet."
Social networking companies have lauded the state for being at the forefront of the issue. Company representatives for Google, AOL, Yahoo and Facebook were in Annapolis this morning to testify in favor of the regulations.
Only Florida has specifically regulated how candidates can use social media sites, the company representatives said, and lawmakers there did so only after a lawsuit.
MAryland's new rules also provide clarity on what a candidate must do if he or she wants to purchase an online ad with Facebook or Google or another provider. If the ad is too small to include the full authority line -- which it often is -- candidates will need to include a link to their official campaign site.
The Maryland General Assembly's joint committee on administrative, executive, and legislative review heard testimony today and then voted 11-to-1 to approve the emergency regulations.
Del. Michael Smigiel, an Eastern Shore Republican, oppposed the regulations, fearing they would have a "chilling effect" on the free speech of candidates.
In an appropriately timed display of just how pervasive social media is this election season, several committee members posted updates during the hearing.
"This may be one my last authority line free twitters unless the hearing I am in votes to reject the proposed electronic media rules," Smigiel posted just before voting against the regulations.
And Sen. Richard Madaleno, a Montgomery County Democrat, confided to committee members that he'd been updating his Facebook page during the hearing.
As the hearing concluded, he posted a status update saying, "just voted to approve the new emergency regulations concerning authority line requirements and electronic media. The vote was 11 to 1 to adopt them. In my opinion, they make great sense and help inform the public as to who is communicating and for what purpose."