Canadians use Twitter to defy election law

Thousands of rebellious Twitter users have been defying Canadian election rules by posting results before all polls across the country were closed.

Canadian law – unlike that in the US – bars people in the East from communicating results until polling stations in the west have closed. The potential penalty is five years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

But a group calling itself Tweet The Results says this is an outmoded requirement in the days of social networks and instant messaging. It’s been campaigning for a change to the law – and succeeded in making #tweetheresults the top trending topic on Twitter for much of the evening. It even beat Osama Bin Laden at one point.

But the group had a crisis of confidence when the moment actually came. It shut down its website for the crucial few hours, rather than publishing the tweet stream there, as originally planned.

““Rather than face a potential fine or protracted legal battle, we have taken this site offline for three hours,” its website said.

Nevertheless, the internet was awash with reports of early poll results. Many people got round the legislation by asking American friends to broadcast the results, for example. Others came up with codenames for the different parties, such as different types of fruit or drinks.

It turns out, though, that they needn’t have bothered. Just after 9.00 pm ET, CBC Newsworld started broadcasting the first results – a good half hour before polls had closed in Qebec and Ontario. It was just a technical mistake, said CBC.