Canadian law bans tweeting or Facebook posts about election results

Canadian Election
New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton following an interview.
AP

(CBS News/What's Trending) Say you love your local politician. You volunteered for them. You went to rallies for them. It's election night, and they have just won. You are thrilled and can't wait to share your excitement and the good news with your friends and family so, of course, you tweet about it.

Hold on now: Your tweet about the election may now be illegal -- at least if you live in Canada.

In anticipation for the Canadian elections which will be held on May 2, Elections Canada -- the official institution in charge of federal elections and referendums in Canada -- posted a warning to tweeters and other social media users on its website. "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," they wrote.

That means if you live in Toronto and post results about the Ontario elections on Twitter that someone in Vancouver can read it may be interpreted as a "premature transmission" of electoral results across time zones.

The reason for this concern from Elections Canada is a law from 1938 that was created to prevent radio stations in the east from influencing voter behavior in the west. If that tweet you posted about the election were interpreted as "premature transmission" the way Elections Canada warned you could get a maximum $25,000 fine, or up to five years in prison. Let me repeat that. You could get a $25,000 dollar fine for tweeting about election results in your region on Twitter without government permission.

In today's social media world such arcane laws just don't fly.

@DenisGagnonJr (Denis Gagnon) We should all tweet on May 2. Either we flood the system and EC gets overwhelmed or we all get fined and end up paying for #elxn41 win-win!

@rymkrs (Peter Raaymakers) I wonder how many people we could get to take part in a "Tweet-in" protest against the election-night Twitter ban. #elxn41

@angiemckaig (Angie McKaig) Sure, that's realistic. Not. > RT @jenvillamere: This is crazy. > Canada bans election-night tweeting w/ $25K fine http://bit.ly/h4sGxo

There was a minority that felt that Elections Canada should just hold the results of the election until the entire country voted.

@hfiguiere (Hubert Figuière) I have a suggestion for the "twitter blackout" on #elxn41: suggest that election canada doesn't publish results until the end.

Within hours of the furor over the warning issued by Elections Canada the agency has pulled back. They still insist that tweeting election results is a no-no -- but only if someone points out you did it.

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