What has been called the election day Twitter and Facebook “blackout” has brought up concerns regarding the freedom of information and the freedom of people. With radio came an exciting new technology, a technology that could touch both sides of the country at the same time. This also meant new provisions against perceived threats posed by this new technology. In this case, the threat was that the election results on the east coast would be broadcast on the west coast while ballots were still being cast. The assertion was that this could potentially impact the vote.
In 1938 the Canada Elections Act was updated and Section 329 included a new provision to prevent the broadcast of election results before all polls were closed coast to coast. The original intent was to ensure that all votes were cast fairly during a radio age, but there are two main problems with this approach today:
· Incompatibility with new technology
o Radio is not the same as Twitter. Laws that were applied to the 1930’s cannot be super-imposed over 2011.
· Disenfranchisement of the youth
o On May 2nd many young Canadians will vote for the first time. This blackout is on technologies that have helped inform them and discuss candidates. Rick Mercer’s video went viral with the direct assistance of the technologies which this outdated law applies to.
73 years after the Act was updated, I still appreciate the concern that the west coast of Canada will likely be voting with more information than the east coast of Canada. We have to face the fact that conversations about the election have moved online and will most certainly include discussion of the results as they are reported. Facebook posts and Twitter feeds are included and I do not think it is reasonable (or possible) to ban Canadians from discussing the results on one coast of the country.
There is already a mass movement to intentionally break this law. While I appreciate the vitriol, I do not support the breaking of Canadian law. Instead, I urge us to push for update of that law. Let’s bring it forward to the 21st century to be with the best interests of Canadians.