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article imageOp-Ed: Are you going to tell? Social media and the Canadian election

By KJ Mullins     May 3, 2011 in Technology
Last night as the first polling stations were closing in Canada messages were being sent out on social media. It was fairly well known that doing so was a no-no but the social media universe gave a loud message: we're not listening to you!
Elections Canada had issued a media blackout period concerning reporting on the election until the polls had closed at every polling station. There was the threat of heavy fines for transgressing the law of up to $25,000.
Section 329 of the Canada Elections Act states:
"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."
Elections Canada sent out the word days before voting became that they would be fining anyone that broke the law but last month also stated it will not be actively monitoring social media sites.
The Toronto Star is reporting that the agency is powerless to do anything about those early social media reports.
“Elections Canada is in the position of feeling incredibly foolish,” said Janice Neil, a journalism professor at Ryerson University. “This flouting was done so openly, partly because the stakes are so low.”
The Globe and Mail reported:
“We don’t monitor social media in any way, shape or form,” Elections Canada spokesman John Enright said. “The way this works is that it’s a complaint-based process. The commissioner of Canada Elections is charged with receiving complaints, and if he receives complaints he’s bound to investigate.”
The loop hole is someone has to complain to Election Canada about those announcements.
Without a complaint Elections Canada is not going to track down the thousands of people who posted despite being told not to.
The world has changed since the 1930's when the regulation came into place. Today's world wants its news and it wants it fast. On social media that is easy to get. As soon as an event happens it has gone viral, even if the facts are yet to be known. Take the death of Bin Laden, the first Tweets were by a man who saw helicopters in his town and wanted to flyswatter them away.
When the news is as big as the electing of the next Canadian Prime Minister the masses are not going to politely wait. The public's fingers have been re-wired to type out whatever their brain is feeling and not think about what happens later. We can't even blame Junior for being immature when Grandma and Grandpa are plucking away at their keyboards at the same time.
In the end this one will come down to who's going to tell. Are you?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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