Canadians Face Fines & Jail Time If They Tweet Election Result News Prior To West Coast Poll Closings

from the dumb-laws dept

Jay Rosen points us to the absurd news that laws on the books in Canada bar Canadian citizens on Twitter and Facebook from mentioning election results from east coast polling stations until all polling stations across the country have closed. The law is based on the idea that folks on the west coast could be "influenced" by results on the east coast. Is there any proof that this is true? No. It was originally written to try to stop national news organizations from reporting east coast results while west coast polls were still open, but in an age where everyone is the media, it appears to apply to Twitter and Facebook updates as well. The article notes that a blogger (who had a very small audience) was fined for posting election results on his blog after the 2000 elections. What's really scary is that people could face jailtime for such Tweets or status updates. As the article notes, this law is silly, impractical and pointless. And yet, Elections Canada insists it "has to" enforce the law:
"The legislation is still on the books, so our role as Elections Canada is to administer the legislation that is before us," says Enright. "If there's a breach of the law, Elections Canada is not going to discriminate between the Mothercorp and Joe Smith down the street."
Amazingly, the article also points out that back when that blogger was charged under this law, one of the most outspoken critics of the lawsuit was one Stephen Harper:
"These jackasses at Elections Canada are out of control," said the NCC president, one Stephen Harper, at the time. "The government's law is outdated and just plain wrong."
Harper, of course, is the incumbent Prime Minister now... but did nothing while in office to fix this law.

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  1. identicon
    Chris, 22 Apr 2011 @ 7:54am

    makes sense to me...

    You don't have to be weak minded to be influenced by how half the country has already voted. I think everyone in the country should enter the booth with no knowledge of how the election might turnout. If you already knew some of the outcomes, or near outcomes, you might not even go vote, thinking your vote doesn't count. That's not good. They're trying to do things right, up there in Canadia. Maybe a better way, as suggested above, is to wait to release poll results. My suggestion is to have the polls open and close at the same moment across the nation - but late enough into the evening on the west coast for people to have time to get there after work.

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