November 25, 2020

Be Careful: "No Tweeting Election Results in Canada"

A techPresident blog post by Nancy Scola points to an Edmonton Journal story.

…Paula Simons reports that election law there [Canada] that seems to make it illegal for the media to report — or for regular citizens to tweet, Facebook post, or otherwise shout to the world — how elections are going. Seems crazy, perhaps, but an election official says that’s the law:

Paula Simons writes:

Back in 1938, when radio was king, Canada’s election law was amended to include a ban on the “premature transmission” of electoral results across time zones. The idea was to prevent radio broadcasts of election results in Eastern Canada from influencing voter behaviour in the West. The law, frankly, was always patronizing and paternalistic. There has never been any evidence that voting patterns in the West were, or would be, influenced by results from the East. Even if they were, why should the government deny voters in the West the opportunity to cast their ballots in the most informed way possible?

[Clip]

That means, on May 2, it will be illegal for the CBC or Radio-Canada or the Globe and Mail or the National Post or any other national media outlet to maintain a live website with up-to-date results – at least until after the polls close in B.C. It will also be illegal for a regional newspaper or broadcaster in Atlantic Canada to put up live web results for their local audience – because then we backwoods westerners might have the temerity to sneak a peak. It will also be illegal for any citizen, journalist or not, to tweet or blog or post something on a Facebook wall about the election results, until all the polls are shut.

Ordinary citizens aren’t immune. In 2000, Elections Canada brought charges against a Vancouver blogger and software designer named Paul Bryan, after he dared to publish election results from Atlantic Canada on his small audience blog. Bryan was fined $1,000. He fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court on constitutional grounds, with major media outlets from across the country joining his battle. It did no good. In 2007, by a vote of 5-4, the court upheld Bryan’s conviction, and Section 329.

Read the Entire Article For More Details

It looks like some “catch-up with the times” legislation needs to be passed in Ottawa.

Do INFOdocket readers in Canada know if Rick Mercer has done a story about this law?

If you don’t know about the work of the brilliant Mercer, head to YouTube and take a look at his some of his commentaries, reports, and interviews. His program airs weekly on the CBC.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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