Tweeting your TD could be considered lobbying under new laws

Tweeting your issue to a TD? Be prepared for the paperwork.

The Standards in Public Office Commission has advised that, under new laws, contacting a public representative via Twitter may qualify as lobbying, and could require the tweeter to register the communication with the commission.

The advice comes in the commission’s 2015 Annual Report into the Regulation of Lobbying, the first such publication since lobbying laws were introduced last year.

The reports authors have said “many” people have been in touch with the commission to specifically query if tweets to public representatives counts as lobbying.

“Generally a tweet directed at a broad audience and not targeted at someone would not be considered lobbying,” the report reads.

“However, if a tweet is sent to an individual designated public official, or that official is tagged in the tweet, it may be registrable lobbying depending on whether the person sending it falls within the scope of the Act and whether the subject of the tweet concerns a relevant matter,” the authors advise.

Potential lobbyists who will have to declare on the register under the new law include employers with more than 10 employees, representative and advocacy bodies, anyone communicating about the development or zoning of land, or any third party paid to communicate on behalf of a client who fits into one of these categories.

Those falling into these categories will have been deemed to have been lobbying if they contact a minister, TD, senator, MEP, councillor, or other public representatives about matters to do with changes to policy or law or the award of any grants from public funds.

The new laws require lobbyists to file returns to the register over three prescribed reporting periods per year. The first such period covered last September to December, and the report found more than 1,100 persons and organisations registered and more than 2,500 returns were posted in the online register for this first returning period.

More than half the returns related to communications on public policy (1,318 returns) while 573 related to legislation, 450 concerned the use of public funds and 171 returns involved zoning or planning matters.

The Regulation of Lobbying Act gives the commission the authority to conduct investigations into possible breaches of the new legislation

However, the investigation and enforcement provisions of the Act are not yet in force.


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