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Elections Canada to monitor misinformation about voting on social media
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Elections Canada to monitor misinformation about voting on social media

Written by
Janice Dickson
Published by
Globe and Mail
May 1st, 2019

Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer says that it is not Elections Canada’s role to monitor truth on the internet, but it does have a responsibility to ensure that information about the voting process is accurate.

Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer says Elections Canada will deploy teams to monitor social media for misinformation about the electoral process during this fall’s election.

Stéphane Perrault told the Senate finance committee Tuesday morning that it is not Elections Canada’s role to monitor truth on the internet, but it does have a responsibility to ensure that information about the voting process is accurate.

“We will have a dedicated team both to monitor and a team to respond to any inaccurate information, whether it’s disinformation or misinformation,” Mr. Perrault said.

“We are acquiring tools to monitor social media in multiple languages and we’ll use key words and try to identify any information that relates to the electoral process. And if there is misinformation, we will quickly respond to that – that’s a key aspect of our role during this election.”

In response to questions from senators about ways to crack down on misinformation, Mr. Perrault reiterated that Elections Canada’s focus will be on any misinformation relating to the voting process. But he did say that in the lead-up to the campaign, Elections Canada will launch a public-awareness initiative on social-media literacy to encourage people to determine the source of the information they’re receiving.

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“Check your sources … make sure you’re aware of where you’re getting your information and go and vote. So these are pretty basic, but powerful messages.”

Voters should turn to Elections Canada for voting information, he said, adding that sometimes there are genuine errors, involving new information or weather events, that result in changes to polling stations.

“There’s some confusion and it’s not always malevolent,” he said. An Elections Canada team will respond “rapidly,” though, in the case of misinformation. This could mean correcting the information online by posting on the Elections Canada website or referring the incident to the Commissioner of Canada Elections, who could investigate.

Mr. Perrault also said Elections Canada is taking a handful of other proactive measures. He said the agency has identified third-party advertisers who had registered in past elections – provincial and federal – and will reach out to them ahead of the election to inform them of the advertising rules.

“We don’t know whether or not these groups will be third parties of course during the election but we’ll proactively reach out to them, should they want to be a third party.”

Elections Canada will also launch a campaign aimed at young Canadians. Mr. Perrault said that in the last federal election, there were voting kiosks on 40 university campuses and that, so far, there will be 117 in October.

Overall, Mr. Perrault said Elections Canada is in a good position to deliver the next election.

With just six months before Canadians head to the polls, the Conservative Party is proving to have the strongest fundraising numbers. It raised $8-million from 50,026 individual donors in the first three months of the year.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said in a statement that, after the SNC-Lavalin scandal, "it’s clear Canadians want change,” calling it a record fundraising quarter for his party.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Party raked in less than half that amount, posting contributions that total $3.8-million from 33,290 donors. Party president Suzanne Cowan said in a statement that Liberal campaigns across Canada “have started 2019 strong,” citing growth in grassroots fundraising and momentum in volunteer engagement.

Guillaume Francoeur, a spokesman for the NDP, said the party pulled in $1.2-million from 13,713 donors.

“Our fundraising numbers continue to trend in the right direction, but more work needs to be done to bring in the change that Canadians need,” Mr. Francoeur said.

© The Globe and Mail

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