Saturday, August 02, 2008

Elections Quebec studying possibility of blog censorship during vote

I'm late to this story, but it's important and bears repeating.

The Director-General of Elections of Quebec is putting together a committee to study how to apply the electoral law to the internet. They want to pressure The National Assembly to modify the law so that parties and individuals don't "abuse" the internet, and undermine "fairness".

To do this, the group will look at revising the defintion of an "electoral expense" so that blogs, YouTube videos and other viral techniques are included.

"Whew!" Quebec bloggers might be saying to themselves. "My blogger account is free. So no worries."

Well, no. Even free blogs and videos will be counted in this proposed definition. They will have to be subjected to an official agent of one party or another, or be approved by the DGE.

Isn't it ironic that the very thing that has really evened the playing field in our democracy-- the internet-- is under attack by people who want to make things "fair"? How is it fair that people with millions of dollars can afford all the things they need to make sure they can get their message out-- and conform to the law-- whereas the average Quebecker will not be able to blog without limit during the election (and he doesn't have a lawyer to advise him).

That's just wrong.

It should be simple: any individual citizen should have the right to express themselves during an election. Without state intervention. Sure, big money influences elections, but the internet is the very thing that evens the playing field.

Is there a possibility of astroturf campaigns (i.e. fake blogs), getting around electoral expense laws, etc?


But what about the average Quebecker? What about his ability to engage and influence the electorate. Should the little guy have to pay for the sins of big money?

It's flat out ludicrous.

I encountered the same thing during the Ontario election. During the last Ontario election campaign, I learned that it could be illegal for some activist to go to Staples and photocopy 300 leaflets to persuade people to vote a certain way.

That's just nuts.

It seems to me that in this scenario, big money-- with all its network, its lawyers, its know-how-- is the winner here-- and the little guy is the loser.

By trying to make things more fair, they make it less fair.

They should just leave things alone. Let average people have the right to say what they want during elctions.

If this re-definition were implemented, it could be a horrible precedent for the rest of Canada.

H/T: Le Suburbain Lucide.

PS: Columnist Patrick Lagacé of Cyberpresse raises the spectre of emails, even just a logo on a blog being censored.

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