OTTAWA — The chief electoral officer of Canada says the independent agency may not do much to counter the false information that circulates about a candidate in a full election.
Stéphane Perrault said Thursday before a committee of the House of commons that certain “minimum rules” cover the theft of identity of parties, candidates or Elections Canada officials, as well as some forms restricted of misinformation.
But the lies spread by the social media cannot be regulated by Elections Canada, he added.
At an appearance Thursday before a committee of the House of commons, Mr. Perrault declined to comment on an advertisement that suggested falsely that the leader of the NDP, Jagmeet Singh – in full electoral campaign for the partial Burnaby South, British Columbia – was the owner of a sumptuous mansion. But in general, Mr. Perrault maintains that there is no miracle solution to eliminate the dissemination of false information.
The NDP has asked the commissioner of canada elections, Yves Côté, investigate the folder of publicity relating to a lavish mansion.
The office of Mr. Côté did not comment Thursday on the complaint of the NDP, if it is not to say that “the allegations will be evaluated and a decision will be made as to how to proceed.”
An omnibus law aimed at modernizing the electoral laws of canadian, adopted last December, includes a provision that criminalizes the making of false statements about a candidate in order to influence the outcome of an election. This provision, however, applies quite closely to the statements that are false, indicating whether a candidate has violated the law or has withdrawn from the election, as well as his citizenship, his place of birth, his education, his professional qualifications or membership of a group.
Thursday, at the meeting of the committee, ndp mp Nathan Cullen has pointed out that the lies have always been a feature of political campaigns. But he added that the false news regarding Mr Singh showed the way in which the lies are now used as weapons and “disseminated through Twitter and Facebook who, themselves, have no responsibility to stop them under (the act) for all we know”.
Mr. Cullen has lamented the inability of Elections Canada to do anything, except in very limited circumstances.
“We are still in a situation where – as we have seen in the Brexit, as in the election of (Donald) Trump, as in the hacking of the email Emmanuel Macron in France – lies can be generated, databases can be hacked, and then spread through social media and nobody can stop that,” said new democrat member of parliament.
“And it is precisely for this reason that it is a response of the whole-of-government and whole society, which is necessary,” said Mr. Perrault.
“There is no miracle solution to this. We can’t ensure that the electoral Law regulates all content on social media”, he added.
The Trudeau government has reported to the giants of social media that it “expects” that they are transparent and accountable for the content posted on their platforms. However, nothing in the act compels them to take action other than to maintain a public register of all political ads distributed through their platforms.