ネット選挙 早期解禁へ弊害抑止の議論を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 7, 2013)
Damage from use of Internet in campaigns must be prevented
ネット選挙 早期解禁へ弊害抑止の議論を(2月6日付・読売社説)

While the convenience of the Internet can be useful in election campaigns, its potentially harmful effects must be minimized. It is essential to carefully create a mechanism to ensure fairness in elections.

The Liberal Democratic Party has compiled a bill to revise the Public Offices Election Law, with the aim of lifting a ban on the use of the Internet in campaigns for this summer's House of Councillors election.

Passage of the LDP's bill will enable political parties and candidates to update their websites and send out e-mails. The use of blogs, microblogs such as Twitter and social networking services such as Facebook will also be liberalized.

As the Democratic Party of Japan, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party also support removing the ban in the near future, the ruling and opposition parties will soon begin discussions on the matter. The current times require a review of the outdated law, which was not designed with the use of the Internet for election campaigns in mind.


Increased voter participation

By using the Internet, political parties and candidates will be able to easily distribute information on their policies to a wide range of voters. The Internet can also serve as a means for candidates' swift rebuttal when negative information is circulated about them.

Since low voter turnout among people in their 20s has become a concern, the use of the Internet in election campaigns will help galvanize young people's interest in politics. Additionally, voters living overseas will probably feel closer to politics at home.

The LDP plan proposes a system in which e-mail messages are allowed to be sent only to people who agree to receive them, instead of to many unspecified recipients.

A legal penalty is also included to counter spoofing, in which people falsely assume candidates' names. Furthermore, websites and e-mails must provide e-mail addresses to identify the people in charge of websites and senders of political e-mails.


Effective measures imperative

We applaud the LDP plan for restraining the use of the Internet to some extent rather than allowing unregulated use, to prevent potentially damaging repercussions.

Nevertheless, are these measures sufficient to root out the possibility of malicious obstruction of political parties' and candidates' campaigns? It is important to prepare effective measures by studying relevant cases in countries where Internet usage is prevalent as a reference.

The LDP plan also allows not only political parties and candidates but also general voters to engage in election campaigns via the Internet. For example, anyone will be able to send an e-mail calling for support for a certain candidate.

However, this could lead to rampant negative campaigns in which voters slander candidates they oppose. We are concerned that Internet campaigns waged to cause a candidate to lose, which have spread in the past in South Korea, may also become widespread in Japan.

Each political party needs to thoroughly discuss measures to prevent the Internet from distorting elections and having an adverse impact on their outcome. If effective countermeasures are not implemented, the ban on the use of the Internet in election campaigns should only be partially lifted.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 6, 2013)
(2013年2月6日00時55分  読売新聞)

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