Guidance on Using Social Media
The Members’ Integrity Act, 1994 states that MPPs may have social media accounts in their own name and can:
Post partisan content on their accounts
Use their accounts after the writ is issued for a general election
When posting on social media, MPPs must follow the conflict of interest, insider information and influence provisions (sections 2, 3 and 4) of the Act. The social media amendments are found in section 9.1 of the Act.
Social Media Inquiries and Advice
The Commissioner provides MPPs with advice on how to ensure their use of social media is consistent with the applicable provisions of the Act and parliamentary convention. Below are anonymized inquiries from MPPs about social media use and the Commissioner’s advice.
Linking from the Constituency Office Website to Social Media Accounts
An MPP asked for clarity regarding the sharing of partisan materials from the MPP’s social media accounts.
The Commissioner advised that it is permissible for MPPs to post partisan content on social media. However, he cautioned that MPPs should not use constituency office resources for partisan purposes and that this convention extends to constituency websites. As such, an MPP’s constituency office website should not contain links to social media accounts that contain partisan messaging.
Linking to the Constituency Office Website from Social Media Accounts
An MPP wanted to include a link on his partisan social media accounts back to his constituency website. The MPP also indicated that his policy was to receive constituency-related matters only through his office and not through his social media accounts. Would this link contravene parliamentary convention?
The Commissioner advised that linking from the partisan social media account to the constituency website would not contravene parliamentary convention. He explained the convention that all taxpayers should encounter a partisan-free zone in the constituency office and that staff there are employed using a budget of taxpayer funds. However, this would not apply when the link to the constituency office website is made available in a partisan environment.
Participating in a Shop Local Campaign
An organization asked MPPs to participate in a campaign to promote local businesses. It asked MPPs to use their social media accounts to encourage people to shop local, and to post pictures of their favourite local businesses. Was this permissible?
The Commissioner advised that the MPP could participate in the campaign, but in a limited capacity. The MPP could post messages on social media that generally promoted shopping locally, but was advised to refrain from endorsing specific businesses because this could be seen as the MPP using her position improperly to further someone else’s private interest. As such, the MPP was advised not to post pictures of specific businesses or provide recommendations.
Posting Content Regarding a Federal Candidacy
An MPP asked whether it was permissible to use social media to support a fellow MPP’s candidacy for a federal seat.
The Commissioner advised that provided the MPP’s constituency office website did not contain links to his social media accounts, he was free to post partisan messaging on his social media pages, including messaging that supports an MPP’s nomination bid.