Canadians who tweet election results face jail

Because of an old law that makes it illegal to transmit (rather than merely communicate) election results, any Canadian tweeting a result might end up in the klink.

It's lovely when old laws try to prevent new ways. It's like your grandma trying to take your PlayStation away.

Canada, for example, has section 329 of its Elections Act. It tells anyone who happens to be insensitive or insensate enough to transmit election results that they will be fined 25,000 quite valuable Canadian dollars--and, perhaps, be offered a mere five years in jail.

So along come those bespectacled nerdy types who go and invent things like Twitter--mechanisms that allow you to be a town crier to an especially large and populous town.

Now a Canadian in Montreal can broadcast an election result there before the polls have closed in Vancouver. Such a heinous act could clearly influence some hemp-adoring resident of the Canadian west coast to change his or her vote--or perhaps not even bother to wander to the polling station.

John Enright, a spokesman for Election Canada, told The Huffington Post: "We're not blind to the fact that social media has taken on its own dimension, especially among youth. As it stands now, 329 is still on the books. People should act in consequence to 329 and the possible repercussions."

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Oh, but surely it could not be that tweetly enthusiastic electors will be confronted by mounties and led off to solitary confinement, deprived of their locally produced BlackBerrys.

Well, it could. The law, you see, doesn't stop you from phoning a friend to tell them that some candidate favoring breaking ties with the U.S. and moving Canada to the rainforest has beaten out the local conservative.

That would be mere communication. What 329 stands against is transmission. Yes, the mass loud-hailering of election results is a threat to democracy.

Canadian broadcasters CBC and CTV have tried to get courts to erase this law before Election Night on May 2. But the courts won't hear of it before that date.

And a blogger called Paul Bryan deliberately broke the law in 2000. It took seven years for the Canadian court system to decide that he was a bad boy and should be fined $1,000 (he also incurred rather large legal costs).

You will be frozen like a margarita on discovering that there are now more tweeting dissenters in Canadian ranks. For there is a new Twitter hashtag--#tweettheresults--which will create a community of resistance around the results-transmitting renegades.

As one rebel, Susie Erjavec Parker--who describes herself as "wife, Momma, baker consultant and leader--tweeted: "How ignorant are CDN voters if #tweettheresults would influence someone's vote? Are we that uninformed, easily swayed, and immature? #really?"

Ah, ignorance. Now, that would be a topic for another day. In the meantime, I am sure that additional Canadian jail cells have been readied for the mass arrests that will, no doubt ensue May 2.

Perhaps they'll open a special jail camp and call it Guantweetamo.

 

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