I try not to upset Immigration Canada, so when I got wind of Section 329 of the Canada Elections Act I decided to keep my fingers to myself and spend the night off-line. But while I was guarding my visa and watching CBC election coverage, born and bred Canadians were taking to the Tweets with cross-border allies.
It was surely the most succinct case of mass civil disobedience in Canadian history: revolution, 140 characters at a time.
While the threat of a $25,000 fine kept many off their keyboards Monday, political vigilantes would not be deterred by a 1938 law barring the “premature transmission” of election results.
In fact, even before a single poll had closed, digital denizens were flirting with creative ways to flout Section 329 of the Canada Elections Act -everything from using fruit and soft drinks as party proxies to starting fake Twitter accounts -all in the name of fighting legislation varyingly dubbed draconian, paternalistic and unenforceable.
Specifically, the ban applied to the sharing of election results in any electoral district to the public in another electoral district before the polling stations had closed there.
This affected not only public websites and national broadcasters but also social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
“This isn’t something we want to compare to, say, U.S. civil rights or granting women the vote in Canada,” said Jason Morris, who teaches political science at the University of Northern British Columbia. “But at the same time, this is how public policy changes are often made: by people raising their hands, writing letters, protesting or, nowadays, having Tweet-ins.” […]
In the end, it was non-Canadians who led the digital dissent, with countless social media users from around the world offering to tweet election results emailed to them. By 5 p.m. -still two hours before the end of the publication blackout -the “real-time election” was in full swing online.
In fact, #tweettheresults generated so much activity in a three-hour period that it was not only the top trending topic in the country, but the mosttweeted topic worldwide, besting even Osama bin Laden.