Tweeting the Election Results: The Canada Elections Act and Social Media

Twitter has been buzzing for the past day over an Elections Canada reminder that the Canada Elections Act restricts transmitting election results when the polls remain open in parts of the country and that the restrictions apply in all media, including broadcasting, the Internet and social media. The specific provision in question was challenged several years ago and upheld by a split Supreme Court of Canada. Contrary to some suggestions that the restrictions mean no use of Twitter during election night, the restrictions apply specifically to transmitting election results and only while the polls are open.

Earlier this month, the CBC and Bell Media (which owns CTV) launched claim to challenge the constitutionality of the provision, asking the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to grant an expedited hearing on the issue. Last week, the court denied the application for an expedited heairng, though the challenge itself will continue. I provided an expert affidavit on the issue. The judge notes that I took the position that “on election day, millions of Canadians will likely turn to social media tools to gather information and that banning such communication will be technically impossible.” A full copy of my affidavit, which explores the growth of social media and the challenges of enforcing the law, can be found here.


  1. Colin Longman says:

    So, as I understand it, since the Elections Act only applies to Canadians and Canadian companies, and does not apply to private communications between individuals, I should be able to send a private tweet (DM), email or chat to a friend outside of Canada about the results in my province and that person can then legally post the information in a public forum that everyone in Canada/the world, can see. Or am I missing something?

  2. This is absurdity, and it shocks me every time. What planet are Elections Canada and the courts living on, anyway? This problem could be so easily solved by Elections Canada if they simply don’t release any results until all the polls have closed.

  3. Crockett
    This is just another stark reminder that technological change pushes sociological shifts. This is not a new concept, there are many examples throughout history, in this case the printing press and telephone being obvious examples.

    The whole debate on copyright Is in essence a result of the same forces. There are strong views from both absolutists and aboloshists that are framing the conversation. But no one can deny the need to adjust to the prevailing winds.

  4. The absurdity is compounded when you realize that there’s nothing to stop verbal communication by phone or Skype, etc.

  5. Kieran Moore says:

    What a fantastic affidavit! I agree with Dave above – it would be so easy to simply not release the results until all polls closed. It is ridiculous to try to stop millions of people from talking to each other.

  6. Isn’t the right answer for Elections Canada to not release any results until the polls close across the country?

  7. I was under the impression that they already had to wait until polls closed across the country anyway before releasing results.You can’t release the results in Nova Scotia before the polls close in BC.

  8. Darren Barefoot says:

    This project might interest those who have strong feelings on this law: