'Tweet-in' to flout Elections Canada blackout law

Twitter users are vowing to push back against Elections Canada's ban on tweeting results before the polls close on May 2.
Some Canadians are planning to stage a 'tweet-in' on election night in defiance of Elections Canada's broadcasting ban. (CBC)

Twitter users are vowing to push back against Elections Canada's ban on tweeting results before the polls close on May 2.

The country's electoral agency issued a warning to social media users this week, reminding them that Section 329 of the Elections Act applies to transmissions made over the internet.

Elections Act: Section 329

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.

Penalties for violating the act could include a fine of up to $25,000 or up to five years in prison.

Despite the agency's claim that it would be monitoring social media, many say they'll flout what they say is an outdated law.

"I wonder how many people we could get to take part in a 'tweet-in' protest against the election-night Twitter ban," tweeted Ottawa's Peter Raaymakers.

"I'm in," Montreal's Jason Mayoff tweeted.

"We should all tweet on May 2," tweeted Denis Gagnon of Timmins, Ont. "Either we flood the system and [Elections Canada] gets overwhelmed, or we all get fined and end up paying for #elxn41."

Others suggested tweeting election results using code names for the parties, or deliberately tweeting inaccurate results. By Thursday afternoon, the hashtag "#tweettheresults" was in use.

But some were unimpressed with talk of a "tweet-in."

"The 'tweet-in' protest against Election Canada's Twitter ban is stupid," tweeted Devon Peacock of London, Ont. "Just vote and leave it at that."

In its reminder about the transmission ban, Elections Canada said tweeting or posting results on a blog or Facebook wall violate the Elections Act.

Using Facebook's messaging service or emailing results do not.

Calls for amendment to act

Elections Canada has hinted it won't be actively monitoring social media for violations of the Elections Act but is bound to investigate any complaints brought to its attention.

The popularity of services such as Twitter mean it's time for the act to change, some say.

"Elections Canada cannot even hope to enforce s329 of the Elections Act... in the age of Twitter," National Citizens Coalition director and blogger Stephen Taylor  tweeted Wednesday.  

"Elections Act must be changed to remove s329 or to close polls across country at the same moment."

Changing the way polls are organized was a common suggestion.

"I don't get why they don't do more to align the polls across the provinces," tweeted Toronto's Ryan Coleman. "Open later east, close earlier west."

In 2006, the ban led some U.S. political bloggers to publish election results, skirting the law.