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SANTIAGO - A ban on the use of social media for campaign purposes ahead of local elections in Chile in October has been criticized as overly restrictive and prompted a cross-party group of lawmakers to present a motion on Wednesday to have it overturned.

According to the guidelines of Servel, the electoral service, "Carrying out electoral propaganda through social networks like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, among others," would be against the rules.

Campaigning in the media will only be allowed via the press and radio between set dates, it says.

Proposals to curb online speech in a number of countries have alarmed policymakers who see the internet as a medium for debate and expression.

In Chile's Andean neighbor Bolivia, supporters of President Evo Morales want to regulate social media after it was blamed as a key factor in Morales' failure to win a February referendum on his continued rule.

In Chile itself, politicians said Servel had poorly interpreted a new law aimed at improving transparency.

"Servel's interpretation is like putting a muzzle on candidates," lawmaker Cristian Monckeberg said in broadcast comments.

The motion to overturn the ban is supported by lawmakers from both the left-leaning government and the right-wing opposition, who have said they hope the government will treat the proposal with urgency.

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