Thursday, December 15, 2005

Bloggers Beware of Internet Gag Law

The Supreme Court of Canada announced today that it will hear Paul Bryan’s challenge to an archaic and undemocratic law – a law which all bloggers need to know about.

I am talking about Section 329 of the Canada Elections Act, which bans the “premature transmission” of voting results on election night. That means it’s illegal for somebody to post election results from a region of the country where the polls are closed to a region where they are still open.

You can learn more about his law here and here.

Bryan challenged this law back in 2000 because he thought it was an infringement on his right to free speech.

What he did was post real time voting results from Atlantic Canada on his website in British Columbia.

The next day Elections Canada dispatched Speech Police to his home and seized his computer.

He was later charged.

But Paul fought back. With the support of the National Citizens Coalition, Paul challenged the law in court. In 2003 the BC Supreme Court overturned the law, but earlier this year the Court of Appeals reinstated it.

That means if any blogger in Eastern or Central Canada posts election results which can be accessed on the West Coast, you will be violating the law and could be charged.

Of course, such a law is not only undemocratic; it’s unenforceable. Look how long the ban on the Gomery testimony lasted.

Let’s hope the Supreme Court sees it that way.


BBS said...

Captain's Quarters can be a very handy place to visit at times like that. Or so they say!

Miles Lunn said...

I support the restrictions on the media broadcasting results from Eastern Canada before the polls are closed, but going after individual bloggers is just plain stupid. I as a rule of thumb always vote before the Newfoundland polls close anyways so my vote won't be influenced by the results. Besides there weren't many close races in Atlantic Canada so the results coming out are likely to be the same as last time so they really won't tell us who is going to win. That will happen when the Ontario results come in and since their polls close only 30 minutes before they do in British Columbia, and that it takes at least 15 minutes before even the first polls report, if you haven't left your home to vote by the time the Ontario results come in, you probably won't be able to vote anyways unless you live only a few minutes from the polling station. The only way one could get Ontario results before voting is if there is a line-up at the polling station and one has a cell phone or blackberry, although I believe if they catch you in the polling station calling to get the national results, you will be asked to leave.