Elections Canada is erecting multiple lines of defence to fight fake news, cyber-attacks and foreign interference in next year’s federal election campaign. Democracies around the world are grappling with new threats to democracy in the digital age, from foreign actors tampering with voting systems to the viral spread of disinformation through social media. With the U.S., U.K. and various European countries still reeling over the explosion of fake news on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, acting Chief Electoral Officer Stéphane Perrault said he believes Canadians are better prepared than many others to spot fake political news after the high-profile 2011 “robocalls” scandal and the recent U.S. presidential election. “I think there was a vigilance that emerged from that situation, and that is also, of course, built on the U.S. situation,” he said.
The robocalls voter suppression scandal involved automated calls made to deter voters from casting ballots by telling them the location of their polling stations had changed.
A research paper prepared for Elections Canada shows a high, and increasing, level of trust among Canadians in traditional and online media, as well as in government institutions. The opposite is true in the U.S., where that trust has crashed, according to research surveys included in the paper.
“That’s fairly significant in terms of the level of literacy about the issue of fake news,” Perrault said. “I think we have to be not complacent about it, but I do think that the population is perhaps more ready for it than the American population was in the presidential election.”