How tweeting your TD could be considered lobbying

A report says tweets directed at individuals may be “registrable”

Twitter, TDs, lobbying, annual report, Register of Lobbying, SIPO, Ireland, social media

General view of the Twitter application in use on an iPad | Image: Andrew Matthews / PA Archive/Press Association Images

A report has said contacting TDs or councillors on social media could be considered lobbying.

 The 2015 report from the Register of Lobbying - which is maintained by the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) - says the Regulation of Lobbying Act "makes no distinction as to the method, venue or formality" of a communication.

 "If a person within the scope of the legislation communicates with a designated public official about a relevant matter, it counts as lobbying and must be registered," the report says.

 "Under the act, informal encounters that take place socially, in a business premises or on the street may be considered lobbying, just as a meeting in a councillor’s office or inside Leinster House."

It adds that texts or e-mails may also count, as might the use of social media in certain cases.

 The report says: "Generally a tweet directed at a broad audience and not targeted at someone would not be considered lobbying."

 "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 Regulation of Lobbying Act says if a person communicates with a designated public official about a relevant matter, it is lobbying.

 But only certain people and groups are included in the act. These are:

  •  Persons with more than 10 employees
  • Representative bodies and advocacy bodies with at least one employee
  • Third parties communicating on behalf of a client (who fits one of the above criteria) in return for pay
  • Anyone lobbying about the development or zoning of land

It says anyone lobbying must register and submit regular returns of their activity.

The register is a web-based system with no cost to register, submit returns or access information.

The report found that from September to December 2015, more than 1,100 people and organisations registered - and over 2,500 returns were posted online.

The chairman of the commission, Justice Daniel O’Keeffe, said: “The overall level of compliance is a very positive indicator that there is an acceptance of the need for openness and transparency in lobbying.”