My Canadian blogging colleague Andrew Coyne, whose blog gets about 25,000 pageviews a day or so (according to his sitemeter.com logs), makes a special point of commenting on how all his readers should respect Section 329 of the Canada Elections Act, which prevents any media outlet from reporting the results of polls before all polls are closed. That kind of law isn’t a big deal in a small country, but when there’s a three-and-a-half hour time difference between one side and the other it is a big imposition — not to mention a clear infringement on freedom of speech.
As a law-abiding citizen, Andrew comments in his post that his readers should abide by the law, and that he strongly supports the legislation (this point is repeated several times for emphasis). However, Mr. Coyne also says that he won’t be closing the comments section of his website — and that there is nothing in the legislation that prevents anyone from commenting on a hypothetical election in some non-Canadian country, one that could theoretically be taking place at the same time, with parties that have different names. If readers were to comment in such a hypothetical way, he says, that would seem to be allowed under the law — even if those comments included specifics about polls in this theoretical election.
Will readers take Mr. Coyne up on his challenge? And if they do, will they be creative enough to avoid the scrutiny of Elections Canada? Others have taken on a similar challenge and failed. As technology lawyer Alan Gahtan and my colleague Mark Evans have mentioned, there is always the option of visiting interested foreign outlets. Rob Hyndman also has some thoughts on the topic of the election and the blogosphere.
It appears that Mr. Coyne has withdrawn from the field of battle without even firing a shot. He has closed his comments until the election is over, on the advice of his legal counsel. Too bad.