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Social media plays a crucial role in political campaigns, allowing parties to reach a vast audience with targeted messages. This was evident in South Africa’s 2021 Local Government Election. However, with great reach comes great responsibility, especially when it comes to privacy laws. In South Africa, the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) and the Electoral Act regulate how political parties and campaigners can use personal data in their social media campaigns during elections.

POPIA, which came into effect in 2020, governs the processing of personal information and sets strict guidelines for its use. This includes how political parties can collect, store, and use personal data for election campaigns. The Electoral Act, on the other hand, regulates election advertising and prohibits certain types of advertising, such as false or misleading information about candidates.

To ensure compliance with these laws, political parties and campaigners must be mindful of the following:


Obtain explicit consent from individuals before collecting and using their personal data for campaign purposes. This includes email addresses, phone numbers, and any other information that can be used to identify them.


Be transparent about how personal data will be used and ensure that individuals are aware of their rights regarding their data.


Implement robust security measures to protect personal data from unauthorised access, loss, or destruction.


Ensure that personal data used in campaigns are accurate and up to date, and provide individuals with the means to correct any inaccuracies.


Take responsibility for complying with privacy laws and be prepared to demonstrate compliance if required.

Michalsons, a tech law firm in Cape Town, are experts in privacy law and provide detailed guidance on their website on how political parties and campaigners can navigate these privacy laws and ensure that their social media campaigns comply with the law. By following these guidelines, political parties can harness the power of social media in their election campaigns while respecting individuals’ privacy rights.

When planning their social media campaigns, political parties should also consider the impact of data breaches and cyber attacks. With the increasing digitisation of election campaigns, the risk of data breaches have become a significant concern. Political parties must take steps to protect their data and the personal information of their supporters.

While social media offers immense opportunities for political campaigns, it also comes with responsibilities. Political parties must navigate privacy laws carefully to ensure that their social media campaigns comply with the law and respect individuals’ privacy rights. By doing so, they can engage with voters effectively while maintaining trust and integrity.