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 "The government's law is outdated and just plain wrong."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. icon
    freak (profile), 22 Apr 2011 @ 8:02am

    The law is silly for quite a few reasons.

    One? Just watch tv from a station to the east of you before you go vote.

    Newfoundlanders, for example, always get the results in realtime throughout election night.
    Oh, hey, people with satellite TV can watch NTV, and get the results anyways.

    But, they are perfectly correct in that it will change how people vote; It usually notably effects Alberta, wherein people might vote for a local liberal party member because they like his policies, (not so much the party's), but as a result of seeing the conservatives gain less seats than expected, vote for the local conservative member instead.

    There are several less stupid solutions that will fix this. For example, close the polls across Canada at the same time. That means they'll be open another 4 & 1/2 hours in Newfoundland, but is that going to make a difference, really?

    I'll note that counting the votes later won't work for the purposes of this law. The media can still wait outside and do random polling, thus giving a good idea of who won which ridings anyways.

    Meanwhile, that sounds to me like typical conservative behaviour; Complain about something when you aren't in power, let it be forgotten when you are in power because it actually probably benefits you.

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