Friday 3 February 2023

Informal surveys on Facebook and WhatsApp are illegal, warns Elections Tribunal

Polls that invite netizens to show their support for the candidate of their choice lack the endorsement of the TSE; its creators are exposed to fines of up to ¢23 million

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QCOSTARICA – The political campaigns to elect the president and legislators closed last Sunday, and by Thursday, all candidates and their parties must stop all politicking, including ralliers, the publication of polls, and paid advertising, among others, allowing Costa Ricans a time for reflection before they cast their vote on Sunday, February 6.

Politicking in the days leading up to the vote is prohibited in Costa Rica; so is the publication of informal polls and surveys online

This includes surveys on social networks and WhatsApp, that supposedly measure the population’s support for the presidential candidates participating in the elections, according to the Tribunal Supremo de Eleccciones (TSE) – Elections Tribunal, which sees many of these actions as illegal measurements, carried out without the endorsement of the TSE and without technical criteria that guarantee the rigor of the data collection and the reliability of the results.

Some polls are run by well-known personalities or users with large followings; others are shared anonymously on WhatsApp. The common denominator of these polls is that they invite netizens to show their support for the candidate of their choice, through a click on a form or a reaction on Facebook.

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The publication of informal polls is prohibited in Costa Rica during the electoral season and is sanctioned with fines of between 10 and 50 base salaries, that is, amounts that range between ¢4.6 million and ¢23 million (about US$7,200 and US$36,000 at today’s exchange rate).

The prohibition to publish polls and electoral polls without authorization has been in force since last November 13. During the months of the campaign, only companies and institutions that have previously registered with the TSE can disclose survey results, after meeting a series of requirements. For example, they must have a statistician in charge, and they are required to disclose who finances the polls.

On Facebook, for example, anyone can post or share alleged results of a survey without meeting the stringent requirements of the TSE, or actual collected data, its source and who is paying for it.

For example, is the Facebook page “Por mi Costa Rica”, that published on January 17 instructions for the public to indicate which presidential candidate they will vote for.

The TSE has clarified that the prohibition to publish unauthorized polls applies both to companies and institutions, as well as to individuals, in their social network accounts.

“I am referring not only to research institutes and universities, to companies, but also to people in their social networks. The jurisprudence of the Tribubal has clarified that this restriction also applies to citizens, to you and to me,” explained in November the electoral lawyer Andrei Cambronero, in an interview with La Nación.

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Polls on the WhatsApp platform do not reveal how the participating users have voted, nor does it clarify who organizes it, or who collects the data.

The TSE investigates this type of non-compliance based on the complaints received. If the offender does not pay the fine within the stipulated period, the TSE may initiate a judicial collection procedure.

According to the official records of the TSE, there are 10 organizations registered and authorized to publish studies on voting intentions for the 2022 presidential and legislative elections:

  • Opinión Política C y C S.R.L. (OPOL Consultores)
  • CID Gallup Latinoamérica S.A.
  • Universidad U Latina S.R.L.
  • Demoscopía S.A.
  • Universidad Nacional(IDESPO)
  • Programa Estado de la Nación PEN/CONARE
  • Enfoques Investigación MP LTDA
  • Centro de Investigación y estudios Políticos CIEP/UCR
  • B y S Blanco y Sánchez Consultores S.A.
  • INDICE X S.A.

 

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