OTTAWA (Reuters) - Using a mixture of humor and bravado, Twitter users flouted a ban on reporting early Canadian election results on Monday, running the risk of a C$25,000 fine ($26,300) and mocking an outdated law.
Canada has six time zones and voting is staggered, which means polls in the west are still open when results in the east starting coming in. To prevent the west from being influenced by earlier voting, the law bans any results being announced until the final poll has closed.
The prohibition dates back to the 1930s, when radio was the medium to broadcast results. Critics say it makes no sense in the age of the Internet and social media.
As the initial results started coming in soon after 7:00 p.m. eastern time, some users were decidedly cautious, using code words to describe the rise of the left-leaning New Democrats -- whose party color is orange.
“My orange soda is fizzy,” said one user, adding the hashtag “#notaresult”.
“If I used to have three oranges, and someone gave me four more oranges, would I go to jail?” asked another.
Within half an hour several bolder souls had lost all sense of hesitation and were tweeting the results from the 32 seats in Atlantic Canada, some using the hashtag #tweettheresults.
User nikadixon said “#tweettheresults is making me laugh. Stopping the flow is like plugging a broken damn with paper towel. Good luck with that.”
As results spread, user DustypupVI tweeted “Results from the east are online in so many places. Canadians have given Elections Canada the middle finger”.
Elections Canada, which has only ever prosecuted one person for breaking the law, only acts if it receives a complaint about premature release of data. “We’re not monitoring it,” said a spokesman when asked about the posting of results.
But Elections Canada might pay more attention to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp, which mistakenly broadcast several minutes of results at 9:00 p.m., an hour before the final polls close out west.
The screen suddenly froze and was replaced by a sign reading “Sorry, we’re experiencing technical difficulties. Please stay tuned.”
“If our state broadcaster (CBC) can’t even get election rules straight, doesn’t it suggest time for a rethink?” asked Twitter user CFIB DanKelly.
Editing by Eric Walsh