Canadians Ignore Ban On Tweeting Election Results

from the now,-will-anyone-get-fined dept

We recently noted that Canadians faced jailtime and fines, if they tweeted Canadian election results prior to the polls closing. The law, originally intended for TV and radio, despite a total lack of evidence that reporting on the results actually influences elections, has been deemed to cover the internet as well. As news of this spread, more and more people promised to tweet results, and plenty of people did so, with some setting up a specific site, to aggregate all the election result tweets.

So, now the big question is if Election Canada will do anything about this. It admits that it only investigates if there’s a direct complaint, so most Canadian election Tweeters are probably safe, unless they have a really mean enemy. Still, one hopes that this attention will finally help Canada drop this pointless anti-free speech law.

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Comments on “Canadians Ignore Ban On Tweeting Election Results”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Actually, he’s addressing another claim, even though implied, which is that there is a negative impact from tweeting election results.

So, while you might claim Mike’s post is FUD for lack of evidence (which may be true), it seems intellectually dishonest to ignore the original implied assertion.

It is a weak argument to simply say, “well you have no evidence either.” We are all capable of assessing that state. If you have references that there is a negative effect, that would be a useful contribution.

FUDbuster (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I’m not ignoring the original implied assertion. He’s saying that the claim that there is a negative influence is baseless. I’m asking how he knows that. Good grief, I’m just wondering if he made it up (which I suspect he did) or if he’s actually making an informed claim. In other words, what is the basis for Mike’s claim?

FUDbuster (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m sorry, but rational thought normally follows the path assume there isn’t until proven there is.

Assuming there is until proof there isn’t is what results in fear mongering and uninformed decision making.

Really, you think the presumption is that there is no influence here? Sorry, but rational thought would mean presume nothing and see what the evidence indicates. Otherwise it’s just faith-based.

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

No, actually, rational thought would be to look at the evidence (none of which has been presented), while a faith based assumption would be to presume that something is true without needing any evidence.

One doesn’t have to prove that there is no evidence. The lack of evidence itself is proof of the lack of evidence. There is no evidence that proves that there is no evidence.

FUDbuster (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Asking someone to prove a negative?

Well played, FUDmaster-, er, buster….

Nope. I’m not asking him to prove a negative. He said there is no evidence that there is an influence. I wondered if he just made that up (which is my suspicion), or was that claim based on actual evidence.

This is basic stuff. Either Mike has a basis for his claim, or he does not. He calls people out on stuff like this all the time.

Balthazar says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I was looking for information regarding this very thing last night when I first read about it, but couldn’t find anything substantial. Unless someone with far better search skills than you and I can help us by providing evidence that reporting on elections does indeed influence the outcome, I’ll have no choice but to assume Mike is correct.

Chris-Mouse (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Nope. I’m not asking him to prove a negative. He said there is no evidence that there is an influence. I wondered if he just made that up (which is my suspicion), or was that claim based on actual evidence.

So, how exactly do you show evidence of a lack of evidence? While you’re at it, can you explain how this differs from proving a negative?

FUDbuster (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

So, how exactly do you show evidence of a lack of evidence? While you’re at it, can you explain how this differs from proving a negative?

Simple, you say, “I know there is no basis for their claim because of X.” Mike is saying that their claim has no basis. I am wondering how he determined this. What reliable information is Mike relying on to support his claim? If none, then he’s just as bad as the people he claims to be debunking.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Geesh….getting a bit nitpicky here.

So basically what you are asking for is:

Mike says there is no evidence and you want evidence that there is no evidence?

Well, OK. I have searched far and wide for this apparently non-existent evidence and this is what I found: **nothing**.

That was easy.

If you are so hellbent on proving Mike wrong – why don’t you dig up some evidence that says this type of reporting influences elections.

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It’s true this is basic stuff. They teach you this the first day of logic class. Saying “there is no evidence” when not shown any evidence, is not the same as saying “there’s evidence that it’s not true!”. Evidence proves a positive. Lack of evidence proves nothing and can be pointed out.

If someone were to say “the Andromeda galaxy is made of cheese curd” and someone else said “there’s no proof of that”, you can’t argue “how do you know there’s no proof!”. Show the proof or shut up.

FUDbuster (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

And how does Mike know there is a lack of evidence? All I’m asking for is the basis for Mike’s claim. He claimed there is no evidence. Where did he look? How did he reach this conclusion?

If someone were to say “the Andromeda galaxy is made of cheese curd” and someone else said “there’s no proof of that”, you can’t argue “how do you know there’s no proof!”. Show the proof or shut up.

Sure, I can ask them “how do you know there’s no proof.” They could then explain that there’s no proof of that because astrophysicists have pointed their fancy machines at the galaxy and told them that there’s no evidence of cheese curd there.

Spin it all you want, but Mike made a claim and provided no basis for his claim. I’m simply asking if there is a basis for his claim, and if so, what is is that basis. It’s not that hard to understand.

If I said Groove Tiger is one groovy dude, and then Dark Helmet says that you’re not, a person could ask Dark Helmet to explain why he thinks you’re not groovy. That person isn’t asking Dark Helmet to prove the impossible. He’s simply asking Dark Helmet how he determined that I’m wrong about your grooviness.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You really don’t know much about science.

In order for something to be considered scientific it needs to be falsifiable.

Mike is claiming that there is “a total lack of evidence that reporting on the results actually influences elections”

This is a falsifiable claim. If someone can provide evidence, they will have falsified his claim. If no one can, then his claim is still a reasonable one until falsified. That’s how science works.

trish says:

big country

Canada is such a huge country, it has 4 time zones, so of course the west is gonna know what’s going on in the east before their polls close. But the fact is canadians’ opinions and political views are so varied, no way the westerners are gonna be ‘influenced’ by the eastern vote. So happy the liberals are out! That Ignatieff is so arrogant :p

Chris-Mouse (profile) says:

I don’t see why this problem even exists.
Elections Canada runs the elections, and it’s the Elections Canada staff that does the counting. That staff, and only that staff, would know the results before the final totals are announced.
All they need to do is keep the counting staff on duty and off the internet until the polls close.
Any other information that may be obtained is at best an exit poll, something that is no more than an aggregate total of how people said they voted.

kalinka says:

Re: Freedom of Speech

Am I shocked that an American don’t understand simple politic? Not at all.

To make it simple. Would you give the score of a game before taking bets?

Some part of Canada get results 4 hours before the vote end on the other side.
You could literally wait for the results of Maritime, Quebec and Ontario (which constitute half of Canada’s population) and then vote accordingly in B-C.

Adam (profile) says:

Re: Re: Freedom of Speech

Kalinka, it has NOTHING to do with understanding politics. Who cares about how a game like an election is perceived. We’re talking about a government PUNISHING citizens with jail time for tweeting about something. That is an infringement of human rights.

Criticize Americans all you want, we would never do that.

Balthazar says:

Re: Re: Freedom of Speech

“Some part of Canada get results 4 hours before the vote end on the other side.”

Simple fix…

Time Zone #1: 6:30 AM – 6:30 PM
Time Zone #2: 7:30 AM – 7:30 PM
Time Zone #3: 8:30 AM – 8:30 PM
Time Zone #4: 9:30 AM – 9:30 PM

Everyone votes during the exact same duration of the day and polls across Canada close at the exact same moment. I know for a fact that this happened with those on MST (Alberta & Saskatchewan) and CST (Manitoba), so it can’t be all that hard to do for everyone else.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Newfoundland needs to vote too...

oops, actually, we forgot one:

PST/PDT: 6:30 AM – 6:30 PM
MST/MDT: 7:30 AM – 7:30 PM
CST/CDT: 8:30 AM – 8:30 PM
EST/EDT: 9:30 AM – 9:30 PM
AST/ADT: 10:30 AM – 10:30 PM
NST/NDT: 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM

Anyway you slice it, the polls would be be closing pretty early in BC, and opening pretty late in Newfoundland.

freak (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Newfoundland needs to vote too...

Okay. There ARE advance polls to vote in, (3 days of them), and your employer is required to ensure you have 3 consecutive hours to vote. (Which isn’t the same as 3 hours off; if polls close at 7:00, and you normally leave work at 5:00, your employer can send you home at 4:00).

IF they think this is a big problem that some people get to see results first. I don’t think it is.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Can you imagine...

Can you imagine if the US had a similar law for Presidential Primaries? The whole 2008 primary campaign was spent in the first few states as the media pulled front runners out of new Hampshire and the other early primary states. If the media was not allowed to report on those primaries until all state primaries were held, the media storm would not have been as bad as it was. Perhaps this law isn’t so bad.

Ok it is still bad. Who cares. The majority of people who vote have decided long before voting day who they will vote for. Only a small minority would change their vote at the last minute based on information of who is ahead in other areas of the country.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Can you imagine...

… given the insanity that is voting-stratagy related propaganda from the various political parties in New Zealand, i get to be baffled that you guys Can’t see how this is a major deal.

if this timezone thing even came up here you can bet there’d be people changing their votes based on what happened in the earlier time zones… some parties would get written off compleatly, other people would change their votes to the one most likely to outdo someone they dislike rather than the one most likely to do what best represents them (we already have this problem on a major scale) … the list of potentual abuses is insane.

we also have a couple of bans in place around elections: all the advertising must be down by polling day, no campaigning can be done on polling day, Nothing is reported until after the polls close… actually, election day proper always seems to be fairly quiet around here.

‘course, before hand you get the typical campaign nonsense, and after you get anywhere from a couple of days to several Months of wrangling before we actually have a government (which is demented, because it’s all over who agrees to support what and who gets which ministarial position… the first half of which is nonsense on so many levels it’s not funny, and the second is just plain corrupt when you realise that the people making the deals actually have no right to be doing so… all ministers are Supposed to be apointed by the monarch… *headshakey* on paper our system is great. tradition and the westminster model’s habit of filling in the gaps when someone stops doing their job however… )

ok, this was getting into a long and derailed rant, but the gist of it is that i can totaly see the logic of this law.

(now, somewhat massively more suspect is the law passed here a while back that forbid any third party entity saying ANYTHING about which party people should support for about six months before the election campaign without submiting all sorts of paper work so it could be counted against that party’s campaign budget…)

Hugues Lamy (user link) says:

Re: Re: Can you imagine...

The ban is not permanent. You have few hours to hold it up for yourself. The election times were staggered a bit as shown by election Canada.

I can really understand why you would like to keep it quiet for few hours. Having such a vote in the east could lead you to vote for the winning party in order for you to have chance to elect an MP that will be minister. That will give you move visibility to you local region.

stderr (profile) says:

The solution is obvious

If Elections Canada is so concerned about results in Eastern time-zones affecting outcomes in Western time-zones, don’t publish any results anywhere in Canada until the last polls close on the West coast.

This has always been an idiotic system. Occasionally Elections Canada goes after somebody for publishing results, but why are there results available to publish in the first place? If we’re trying to be so pure and high minded about the election being fair, I don’t think it’s asking too much for Elections Canada themselves to hold onto any and all results until the last polling station closes.

Last time I checked, and sadly showing my age, CBC Radio International on short-wave broadcasts, or used to broadcast, results live to the world as they came available. CBC? Government run? Really? How is, or was, that legal? I admit I don’t even own a short-wave radio at present, but in the ’80s and ’90s it was so simple to defeat the publication ban that I always treated it for the joke that it was, and is.

It is Elections Canada who really must be called to account, as they have all of the ballots, and all the discretion in the world. Why are they making results available before the polls close?

Tomas Th?fner says:

Of course theres an effect

It would be rather strange if reporting on election results did not have any effect on votes cast later. The question is how big an effect, and if he given effect size is acceptable.

A quick glance at research on exit poles (similar problem) seems to indicate that the effect is not that big, but that its there. Of course. (for instance

Nick Coghlan (profile) says:


Wow, coming from Australia where the major news outlets start reporting preliminary results for Federal elections as soon as the polls close in the eastern states, this sounds completely crazy. (Of course, we have our own problems when it comes to freedom of speech issues)

As far as the whole “prove a negative” argument goes:

1. Starting point should be “Freedom of Speech”
2. Evidence of harm is then needed to justify *any* censorship by the government

If some people can’t even agree to point 1… then that’s a completely different kind of argument.

Chris says:


Common sense tells me that ham beings are flawed and impressionable (among a few other choice adjectives). I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that people standing in line at the polls in the west, watching the coverage and reading results tweets from the east, could be influenced. Your evidence remark, in your mind, proves without a doubt that hearing the results in the west just before voting has absolutely no impact on flawed, impressionable, and easily discouraged human beings in the west. You can hide behind your “show me evidence” position forever. But reasonable people know it’s not as simple or black/white in this case.

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