Canadian Government Forces Citizens to Watch What They Tweet

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Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

Canadians need to be careful what they tweet about if they don’t want to end up with a fine of $25,000 or five years in jail.

A Canadian law that prohibits citizens from publishing election results before all the polls in the country have closed holds new meaning in today’s digital age. The law was initially directed at public radio and created to prevent Eastern voting results from affecting Western voting behavior. But given the rate and frequency at which today’s news flows through cyberspace, the law is not only somewhat obsolete but also has significant implications for some channels of information, namely, Twitter.

(More on TIME.com: See TIME’s 140 Best Twitter Feeds)

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.” The Vancouver Sun reports that private emails and Facebook messages are allowed but anything visible to the public–like tweets and wall posts–is forbidden. Elections Canada, a non-partisan agency responsible for conducting federal elections, reminded citizens of the law as it applies to the May 2 parliamentary election.

Canadian voters have reacted in anger and many plan to protest the law by organizing a mass tweeting on election night. Will the government be able to enforce a law that everyone breaks? “The sheer number of users on Twitter would make it very difficult to enforce this law in terms of resources,” said Camille Labchuck, a communication strategist for Canada’s Green Party told the Montreal Gazette. “Even if everyone who flouted the law was identifiable, I can’t see how Elections Canada could possibly prosecute all violations.”

(More on TIME.com: To Tweet or Not To Tweet?)

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