Possible Prison Sentences For Anyone Campaigning On Twitter In Thailand On Election Day

Any Thai candidate or supporter caught campaigning on Twitter on the evening before the July 3rd election will face up to six months behind bars, according to officials.

Bloomberg reports that a police spokesman confirmed the possibly jail time, adding that campaigning after 6pm on the evening before an election is illegal. Anyone caught doing so – whether in person or on a social network – will be fined up to the equivalent of approximately $325 and will face six months in prison.

There will be 100 police officers monitoring about 1,000 websites after 6pm on the 2nd, making sure no illegal campaigning is going on.

This law is similar to a Canadian law that was in place during the federal elections in May. It stated that no Canadian could broadcast the results of the election in their region until all polls had closed across the country. However, many Canadians flaunted this law by using the hashtag #tweettheresults and blatantly tweeting information about the election before West coast polls had closed.

In the Canadian case, fines of up to $2,500 were threatened, but there was a loophole: elections officials would only take action against people tweeting the results if they received a complaint from the public. No one ended up with a fine.

The Thai situation is slightly different, in that police will be actively watching certain websites, Twitter included, for hints that people are still campaigning. However, both governments are struggling to cope, in their own ways, with a new network that is instant, global, and accessible – factors which are good for democracies in general, but could be detrimental to the actual process of elections.