Between 7pm and 10pm EST today, there supposedly will be very few tweets about the Canadian election, even though results will be pouring in all over the country. Section 329 of the Canada Elections Act makes it illegal to publish results from other ridings in places where polls are still open. This year, Twitter and Facebook make enforcing that law a little bit more difficult.
An article in Time magazine Canadian Government Forces Citizens to Watch What They Tweet states:
Canadians need to be careful what they tweet about if they don’t want to end up with a fine of $25,000 or five years in jail.
A Canadian law that prohibits citizens from publishing election results before all the polls in the country have closed holds new meaning in today’s digital age. The law was initially directed at public radio and created to prevent Eastern voting results from affecting Western voting behavior. But given the rate and frequency at which today’s news flows through cyberspace, the law is not only somewhat obsolete but also has significant implications for some channels of information, namely, Twitter.
The Globe and Mail has put out an article detailing why they will not be reporting election results for the next few hours, until the polls close in British Columbia. They’ve also closed their large comment section.
So during those three hours, we’re abiding by the law in all those platforms. Unfortunately, that means also temporarily disabling our high-volume comments system. To allow our readers to continue to have their say, we’ll be taking in your comments in our liveblog starting at 7 p.m.,where our editors will vet and post the best comments.
Back to the Time article, it does say that angry Canadians are organizing mass tweeting in order to protest the law. Search #tweettheresults on twitter if you’re interested in that. It’s been reported by CBCTheHouse that the website has been taken down, but the hashtag continues on. I’ll be searching on Twitter for information, but I don’t have $25,000 kicking around to blow on sharing my local results in hopes of swaying those on the west coast. CBC has an article on tweettheresults, have a read. If you’re one who wants to take part but fly under the radar, there have been quite a few people from outside of Canada, tweeting their email and telling Canadians to send them results and they will tweet them. And if you’re looking to stay on the lawful side, well, you can use any news source you want or go to ElectionAlmanac.com and they’ll have all the information you could want, at 10pm EST. Hopefully the next time there’s an election, Canada will have this sorted out.
I don’t see an issue with people tweeting the results. Each riding is it’s own entity in my eyes. I voted Liberal today, because of the impact it had in my riding. I would have done that regardless of what I read on Twitter about the national results in Atlantic Canada. If one party wins in one riding, that doesn’t mean that it will win in another that is on the other side of the country if people see the results. The mere idea that people will vote based on results from the other side of the country that they got off the of the internet from a random stranger (read: not so trustworthy source) is ridiculous. At the end of the day, as long as you vote I don’t care who it’s for, just get out there and do it.
UPDATE: CBC broke the ban on reporting the election and began broadcasting just after 9pm EST. Story from the Globe and Mail here. CBCNews has tweeted this: For those of you who are wondering – election results on CBC are only available in locations where the polls are closed.