Crackdown on political party spam calls in South Africa

 ·15 May 2024

The Information Regulator of South Africa has published a new guidance note for how political parties and independent candidates can use the personal information of voters.

One of the key focuses of the new guidance is that political parties and candidates only use the personal information they have collected, with consent, from voters themselves, and not process any information acquired from data brokers or lead generators.

Politicians are also required to protect any personal information they have collected, and use it for campaign purposes only.

This aligns with the Protection of Personal Information Act No. 4 of 2013 (POPIA).

“The new guidance note is based on recent developments in the electoral process following changes in electoral law (allowing for independent candidates to stand and campaign for elections), the increasing instances of security compromise to personal information in various segments of the economy and society and increasing risks to the electoral process due to misinformation and disinformation,” the regulator said.

The regulator said that it wants to ensure that both political parties, independent candidates and the public are fully informed and enabled to take the necessary action to protect the personal information of voters during elections, and to minimise the risks to the free flow of accurate information that is crucial for informed participation in the electoral process.

“For example, the Guidance Note states that if political parties and independent candidates want to use personal information of voters for campaign purposes, they must collect such personal information from the voters directly,” it said.

“It also prohibits the supply of personal information that has been collected for campaigning purposes to third parties without the consent of a voter.”

The guidance also addresses the issue of solicitation of donations by political parties and independent candidates through direct marketing.

According to the note, campaigning for votes does not constitute the promotion of any services and does not fall within the definition of direct marketing in POPIA.

However, the act of requesting donations by a political party or independent candidate is subject to the regulation of direct marketing in terms of POPIA and therefore, in this respect, political parties and independent candidates have to comply with the provisions of POPIA in relation to direct marketing.

The regulator also regards misinformation and disinformation as a violation of the right to access accurate and reliable information and the right to privacy of a person whose image and/or voice is used without their consent to spread fake messages through generative artificial intelligence.

The guidance requires political parties and independent candidates to investigate instances of misinformation and disinformation by their campaigns and take disciplinary action against their staff that engage in these practices.

It also calls on the Independent Electoral Commission to issue a code of conduct to address misinformation and disinformation in digital in digital platforms to promote free, fair and orderly elections in terms of section 99(2) of the Electoral Act.

Read: Huge crackdown on spam calls and messages in South Africa

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter