Election Day, Social Media and the Streisand Effect

Came up with a saying years ago among people I know. Probably not the first one to say it. About the leaders of political parties, “They all suck in different ways”. It’s still true. You have to pick who annoys you the least.

Wouldn’t have come up with a post except for the silly threat of fining people for Tweeting election results. Clash of the old way of thinking and today’s realities. I would think most people didn’t even know about that possibility. Because of all the time zones across Canada years ago it was decided to have a media blackout of results from other provinces. So if you were in Ontario, TV/Radio stations were not allowed to tell you how many seats had already been won in Newfoundland for example. Reasoning was silly. That people might not go vote if they knew results from other parts of the country. Like someone in BC in the 1990’s realizing the Liberals already have a majority government so they woudln’t bother going out to vote.

This assumed way too much. That a person would wait till polls almost close to vote. If this imaginary person was following politics so much they wanted results as they came in, chance of them not voting is slim to none. Here is link to the story that came out.


Section 329 of the Canada Elections Act, which bans anyone from transmitting local poll results to other electoral districts on election night until polls close in that area.

Elections Canada recently warned social media users that results posted in the May 2 vote to Twitter or on Facebook walls will violate the 1938 law. The maximum punishment is $25,000 or up to five years in prison.

Amazed that Elections Canada decided to put out a statement that would in a way invoke the ‘Streisand Effect’. I will explain that term to those who don’t know what that is. From Wikipedia.

“The Streisand effect is a primarily online phenomenon in which an attempt to hide or remove a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely. It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose 2003 attempt to suppress photographs of her residence inadvertently generated further publicity.”

A photographer had an online collection of 12,000 aerial pictures of the California coastline. Wasn’t a guy taking pictures of people’s houses primarily. Adelman “was photographing beachfront property to document coastal erosion as part of the government sanctioned and commissioned California Coastal Records Project” Her house happened to be in one of them. For some reason she decided to begin a $50 Million lawsuit against him and the website. Apparently so people couldn’t see the picture. You can guess what happened. Hundreds of thousands of people viewed it online.

Bigger that that was the Associated Press picked up the story. Just think, if you are running this story what image would you use? The very picture in question. So Babs’ house spread all over the world. One of the more boneheaded ideas when it comes to lawsuits. It was eventually thrown out of court too. And that photo is still on that site.


Elections Canada has backed off a bit saying they are not going to monitor social media. However they say they will investigate complaints. The old line of ‘we didn’t make the law we are just enforcing it’. Wrong. The law was for broadcasters across the country 73 years ago. Not for the average person. Threatening ordinary Canadians with jail time invoked the Streisand Effect.  You riled up people who had no idea they would break a law and now are all organized.  Brilliant.  Gone from a handful of people in Newsgroups posting results to this. [That documented example is coming up.]

Also thought I’d point out, this blackout has never worked 100% anyway. For instance I lived in New Brunswick. There are TV/radio stations and transmitter near the NB/Quebec border. So people in Quebec I’m sure could have in the past picked up NB signals. Cable/Satellite providers will blackout those channels nowadays. Before that with antennas the signals flowed freely. If you could pick it up you could listen or watch it. Similar with older satellite dishes in 1980s and 90s. You picked up what you could and no one had power to blackout it out for certain areas.  Didn’t hear any complaints.

Online I had an example I pointed out on Twitter was Re-Tweeted up by Kirstine Stewart, the Executive Vice President of English Services at the CBC. [Why you readers are so surprised by that I don’t know., OK I do know.]


@KStewartCBC Kirstine Stewart
RT @robertcarnell @jianghomeshi http://bit.ly/giPqjJ Google search and here is someone in NL in 2006 posted the result of that year’s results

Newsgroups. Remember those? Might not. Been around for decades. Think of it as a bulletin board. Thousands of messages if not millions over the years. What I recalled was a past election where I got the results from a Newsgroup. I used Google to find one from nf.general which is the Newfoundland newsgroup. It was simple and to the point on election night 2006.


Hugo : “4 Lib (-1) 3 Con(+1)” Jan 23 2006, 9:04 pm

Just that easy. Liberals won 4 seats, which was down 1 from previous election. Conservatives picked up that extra seat and had a total of 3. That was written by someone who had registered with a Hotmail account. No way to track him or her. And illegal post and a piece of cake to do.

The volume alone now with Twitter and Facebook is too much to keep track of. As for punishment, no one is getting jail time let alone 5 years in prison. That is aimed at broadcasters back in the day of scaring them. The blogger who got charged ended up with a $1000 fine. Elections Canada is strange in what they’ll go after. You can send a message on Facebook to someone but can’t post results on their wall. Can’t Tweet results but you can email them to anyone. Let’s say you email 100 people the results? Or have an email newsletter with 1000 addresses. That’s OK from what I’ve read.  So the whole law is messed up.

So I’m sure I will see a lot of poll results on Twitter and Facebook. Since Canadians are online a lot.


“Canada has also long been known as the world’s top Facebook nation with 83.1% of the online population on the popular social-networking site. In the U.S., Facebook has 71.5% reach of the online population. More Canadians have also mastered the 140-character tweet than Americans, with 13.7% on Twitter monthly compared to 11.3% in the U.S.”

Let the online protest begin later today. Hashtag on Twitter is #tweettheresults or just visit this website.


Not sure I can afford a big fine. So I think if I’m online around that time, I might Tweet about this bag of Smarties or M&M’s I will have. Had a similar bag during the last election. I could compare the number of Red, Blue, Orange and Green ones I had last time and compare them to this year. Fun little experiment. ‘Oh look the number of Blues and Orange ones have gone up and Red has gone down, looking for a Green one.’ Telling people about food might be silly, but if you want to borrow my idea feel free.  We’ll all discuss snacks for a bit.

Finally, as I work midnights chance of me being online when the first results come in are slim.  Found out polls don’t open till 9:30am in Ontario and I’m off work at 7am.  Thanks Elections Canada for not having them open at a reasonable hour like 8.  I looked at advanced polls but here they were Noon-8pm.  Even worse for me with my weird hours. This long post and by time I get online tonight this issue could be over since BC closes at 10pm EST.  Ironic.


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