Page last updated at 12:14 GMT, Friday, 18 September 2009 13:14 UK

Spoof election videos 'unpoliced'

You Tube
Video sharing sites could play a big role at the next election

The Electoral Commission has said it will not be able to police the expected explosion in spoof internet videos at the next general election.

Some experts believe unattributed videos on YouTube and e-mails could be used to spread false information.

Election leaflets must include a named individual to prevent foul play - but there are no such laws on the internet.

The elections watchdog has told the BBC it does not have the resources to scour the internet for malicious videos.

It is not out of the question you are going to get some foolishness and the more you can protect people from this the better for everyone
Mark Pack, Lib Dem blogger

The Electoral Commission says candidates' websites should include details of who published the material as "a matter of good practice" but they are not required by law to do so.

In 2003, it said spoof websites were an acceptable part of the democratic debate as long as they were clearly identifiable as such and did not seek to deceive the voters.

'Dishonest' attacks

But the advent of video sharing sites such as YouTube has led to a massive increase in political material on the internet - and it is expected to play a crucial role at the general election, which must take place before June.

Liberal Democrat blogger Mark Pack, who used to be in charge of the party's web presence and co-wrote its election law manual, said the government was either unaware of potential problems or "keeping their fingers crossed" they will not get out of hand.

"Anyone can put something on the internet, send a text message or an e-mail as the bar to action is so low," he told BBC News.

Those potentially falling foul of the rules could range from "over-enthusiastic" campaigners to those mounting "dishonest" attacks and misrepresenting opponents' views, he added.

"It is not out of the question you are going to get some foolishness and the more you can protect people from this the better for everyone."

An Electoral Commission spokesman said it had no plans to police internet material during the general election campaign.

"There is nothing in electoral legislation that would cover that kind of stuff. Our job is to provide guidance for those people taking part in an election and to help them stay within the law."

But he makes clear that complaints about potentially defamatory material, under electoral laws, remain a matter for the police and that cases will be investigated.



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