Tweeters beware: Early results not OK on social media
Published Monday, May 2, 2011 9:03PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 4:38AM EDT
Canadians hoping to find early election results on social media sites may be disappointed Monday evening, as the country's bloggers, prolific tweeters and obsessive Facebook updaters are supposed to wait until polls are closed across the country before they can report on what happened in the voting booths.
While it remains to be seen whether Canadians will adhere to the law, Section 329 of the Canada Elections Act prohibits the premature transmission of results.
It states that: "No person shall transmit the result or purported result of the vote in an electoral district to the public in another electoral district before the close of all of the polling stations in that other electoral district."
The prohibition on the premature reporting of results dates back to 1938, and was designed to ensure that all voters went to the polling stations with the same information and would not be influenced by news of what had happened in other parts of the country.
But in the Internet age, when citizen journalists take to social media sites to report news as it happens, the section may not be enough to prevent the Twitter-verse from learning the results from, say, a district in Atlantic Canada.
Elections Canada has already issued a warning that anyone who posts preliminary results on social media sites, such as Twitter or Facebook, may be slapped with a $25,000 fine.
But the agency said last month that while it will investigate complaints about potential violations of the law, it will not be actively monitoring social media sites.
While candidates are not allowed to officially campaign on voting day, there was confusion early Monday about whether they could take to Twitter to urge supporters to get out and vote.
Around 9 a.m. ET, Gerard Kennedy, Liberal candidate for the Toronto riding of Parkdale-High Park, tweeted a thank you to his supporters with the additional message to "Please go out and vote today."
A couple of hours later, Kennedy tweeted that he had been "informed by Elections Canada we are not allowed to tweet today, so see you on the flip side."
Then around noon, Kennedy tweeted that a "party lawyer gave us the go a head to continue tweeting, so we're back."
Other candidates, such as Liberals Justin Trudeau and Michael Ignatieff, issued simple tweets to encourage Canadians to vote, while Conservative candidate Tony Clement, a prolific tweeter, remained quiet Monday.
Elections Canada spokesperson John Enright told CTV.ca in an email statement Monday that if an individual posts an online message promoting a party or candidate "on a non-commercial basis" -- meaning they are merely expressing their own personal political views -- then such a post does not flout election laws.
However, "The same message sent by a political party or another group or entity that is not an individual may constitute election advertising, if it promotes or opposes a party or candidate, or takes a position on an issue that is associated with a party or candidate."
In keeping with the Act, CTV News will not be reporting results until 10 p.m. ET, including online, on Twitter or on Facebook.