Saturday, April 23, 2011

Twitterers beware

There are certain Twitterers  who had better make sure Elections Canada is not on their followers list.

 I am referring to those in the Twitterverse who plan to defy Canada's election law by posting real-time voting results on election night.

If they do so they will be violating Section 329 of the Canada Elections Act which prohibits the "premature transmission" of election results.

In other words, you can't reveal how Canadians have voted in a region where the polls are closed, to Canadians living in a region where the polls are still open.

And if anyone thinks violating this law is akin to a harmless prank, they better think again. The fact is the bureaucrats at Elections Canada enforce Section 329 with a Spanish-Inquisition like zealotry.

Just ask Paul Bryan.

Back in 2000 Paul, a British Columbia software developer, decided he would defy the law because he believed it infringed on free speech.

So, acting on principle, he posted real-time election results from Atlantic Canada on his website. This was back in the Stone Age era of the Internet when there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no Craigs List. (How did we survive?)

Please note, Paul didn't project winners. He didn't provide analysis. He simply gave British Columbians a chance to see how voters in Newfoundland were casting their ballots.

Elections Canada took notice of this egregious  crime and took immediate action to safeguard democracy.

The next day they dispatched police to Paul's home and officially charged him with a crime. The police also seized his computer  hard drive and other equipment.

Meanwhile, Stephen Harper, who back then was still president of the National Citizens Coalition, was outraged with the bullying ways of Elections Canada.

So the NCC took up Paul's cause and challenged the law in the courts.

Unfortunately, in an incredibly short-sighted ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against Paul and sided with Elections Canada, so the black out rule remains in effect.

Of course, it's a law which is now probably unenforceable. Modern communication technology has rendered it impossible to keep track of all possible violators.

As one of the lawyers arguing against Section 329 told the Supreme Court justices, "The only way to get fairness is to get rid of Section 329 or to shut the power off on election day so no one gets any results."

Of course, knowing how Elections Canada bureaucrats think, they might just decide to shut off the power, rather than allow free speech.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if posting a link to the results or retweeting will generate the same result as actually posting them. This law is just ridiculous. Either change the vote opening and closing times so that they're synchronized across the country or just scrap the law. It would take me 30 seconds to setup up an anonymous blog on a US server and post results from a wifi hotspot. Good luck tracking me down.

Anonymous said...

Please take this as a subjective observation: Lack of a last name for Paul and a reference to any reference articles seriously hurts the credibility of this article. Until it's amended with that information I can't believe it.

Gerry Nicholls said...

Pretty sure, I put Paul's last name in the posting.

Allen Small said...

Did you see the movie "V for Vendetta"?
At the end of the movie, hordes of citizens wore the mask of V the hero/antihero character. That kind of collective action (the only way collectivism should be used - in the defence of freedom) is how Section 329 is made irrelevant. That irrelevance might occur on May 2nd.

Anonymous said...

This speaks to a bigger issue.

The LGR for example;This registry law is being openly defied by hundreds of thousands of Canadians.

But, back to your point. I suspect that thousands of Canadians will tweet early results without even knowing who or what Elections Canada even is. The officials will likely only be able to deal with those who had a deliberate intention of violating the act and publicy say so.

Part of my beef is that we all know that the party workers and hacks will be getting this information and relay it to others working on campaigns in the west.

One way to perhaps stop this whole thing (if it is really an issue at all; It certainly isn't to most people) would be to only start counting all the votes at a specific time even if they sit uncounted for a couple of hours in the east.

Yup. The last name is there. I'd be suspicious if the first name were only given and it was Heywood...

Anonymous said...

Folks, call me paranoid, but I think there's A LOT more to the Coup/Coalition than meets the eye. And it's not good. For those interested in stopping the hijacking of OUR democracy, please give a gander at: "The Real Co-Conspirators Behind the Coup":

and tell me if I'm wrong. Please.

The Grey Lady said...

The best way to deal with an unjust law is to ignore it en-mass.

Tory Ninja said...

The problem is that I, as a citizen of BC, have access to information which can influence my vote that a voter in NFLD has no access to. In actuality, it is impossible for anyone from NFLD and the Maritimes to have access to the exact same information that I have. It won't be because they are lazy or didn't take the time to find out, rather, it is impossible for them to base their decision on the exact same information that I can. That is why the results shouldn't be published beforehand.

I am shocked that people are so selfish that they can't wait till the whole election is over to see the results. It blows my mind.

Anonymous said...

@ToryTina: so what? Why the hell should we demolish free speech to level BC with NFLD? I am shocked that some people are so petty and authoritarian they feel the need to control the publication of election results. It blows my mind.


Gordie Canuk said...

Hrrrrm, so this time Canada's election laws matter, they're not something convoluted, something to be circumvented and brushed aside?