Canadian Twitter Users Break Election Law, Earn Street Cred

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GEOFF ROBINS / AFP / Getty Images

A voter casts his ballot in Canada's federal election at a polling station on May 2, 2011 in Calgary, Alberta.

Social media-savvy Canadians defied a longstanding ban Monday by broadcasting results from the federal election before every last ballot had been cast. This is about as dangerous as it gets in the Great White North.

Under Section 329 of the Canada Elections Act, which dates back to the 1930s, early election results are to be kept hush-hush until all the polls, from coast to coast, are closed. The idea is to ensure that results from Eastern Canada don’t reach, and influence, voters in Western Canada who have yet to finish casting their ballots. (Canada has a total of six time zones and voting is staggered.) The ban was first put in place to ensure that radio announcers didn’t air inaccuracies.

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Many argue that the law has outlived its usefulness in the Information Age. Among them are Twitterers across the country who yesterday flouted the ban, disseminating details willy-nilly and risking an over $25,000 fine. They hoped, perhaps, that they could achieve safety in numbers. Elections Canada couldn’t possibly penalize that many tweeps at once … could it?

A large number of the tweets carried the hashtag “#tweettheresults,” which refers to a Vancouver-based website of the same name that had intended on compiling and then relaying the criminal tweets en masse. But alas, the page was taken down at the very last moment by its bandit founders for the entirety of the blackout period. “Rather than face a potential fine or protracted legal battle, we have taken this site offline for 3 hours,” read the message they left behind.

Other of Canada’s more fearful folk found creative ways to transmit the results, posting coded messages to social media sites about “baseball” and “soda pop.” Some emailed the results to their foreign friends for transmission. But chances are the Twitterers needn’t worry so much. Elections Canada seems as docile and polite as the next Canadian. The last time it went after someone for contravening the law was in 2000 (the Vancouver blogger was fined $1,000) and it only acts on complaints. (via Reuters)

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