Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Internet Vs. Gag Laws

When it comes to election gag laws, the National Citizens Coalition may have lost the battle, but thanks to emerging information technology we may yet win the war.

The battle we lost, of course, occurred last year when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 6-3 in favour of the Liberal government’s election gag law.

Consequently it’s now a crime for citizens to freely and effectively express political opinions during federal elections through paid advertising.

However, the NCC did succeed in delaying gag laws for more than 20 years.

Pierre Trudeau actually enacted a gag law way back in 1983 – but the NCC had the courts strike it down.

In 1993 Brian Mulroney also proposed a gag law, but the NCC succeeded in striking that one down too.

In other words we put off gag laws until 2005, when technology might make these kinds of laws unenforceable.

The emergence of Internet, emails and blogs offer citizens with a way to make their voices heard gag law or no gag law.

Indeed, nothing in the gag law prohibits the use of the Internet for political communication because there is no expense involved – the law is designed to stop election spending.

Can the Internet be an effective tool?

Yes. Political blogs in the United States have played a key role in raising funds for election campaigns, in getting out the vote and in raising the profile of certain candidates.

Meanwhile here in Canada, bloggers are beginning to debate what role they can play. See here and here for some interesting commentaries from Paul Tuns and Stephen Taylor.

Of course, if the Internet does become an effective tool, watch for politicians to quickly move to regulate and control it too.

And once they do, the NCC will be there to stop them.


kyle phillup said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ferrethouse said... is one of the largest Canadian discussion forums on the internet. It was funded by the government of Canada through one of Judy Rebik's organizations. It is rabidly liberal. I don't think the Liberals would be so foolish as to attempt to regulate online content so much as they will flood it with government subsidized liberal propaganda much as it has done with conventional media sources.

Darren said...

While I disagree with your position on campaign funding, that's not the gist of this comment. I just wanted to mention that, in BC's recent provincial election, the government was defining blogs as a form of campaign advertising and requiring them to register:

Incidentally, two requests about your new blog:

1) In Blogger, enable non-Blogger registrations for commenters. I don't really use my Blogger account for anything, so I'd just prefer to enter my URL and name.

2) You deleted another comment associated with this post. Was it spam? If not, it's considered good policy to, as a minimum, indicate why you've deleted it. A better policy is to just leave it alone, unless it's libelous.

WE Speak said...

Welcome Gerry.

You might want to go into your Blogger settings and turn on the word verification as well. Cuts down on the comment spam.

ferrethouse - can you send me any info or links to the funding info for rabble. I'd like to keep that info for a rainy day. (and I'm thinking it might be cloudy during the election)

Anonymous said...

Groups like the NCC need to think further outside the box.

They have a monthly publication.

That is media isn't it?

So what if they were to have a "subscription drive" and do so by offering free copies of their publication as inserts in daily or weekly newspapers?

The editorial comment and news stories would not be considered "election advertising", it would be media.

This would be completely exempt from any gag law provisions.

So would any radio or billboard ads promoting the subscription drive.

So would an website offering editorial opinions or means for people to order the free publication.

Sometimes Conservatives are too stodgy to be liberal in their creativity.

Who knew?

Greg Staples said...

One thing that is popular on the internet is flash or regular video. If you can make it poignant or entertaining it will get passed around by email or by links from blogs.

Since you would host it on your blog it would get around the gag law.

Just a thought