Starting in Ontario, followed by Quebec, Alberta and the country as a whole, voters will go to the polls. New Brunswick also votes this year and another vote in British Columbia cannot be ruled out. But with these key contests looming, there has been very little serious discussion in this country about how voters will receive information they need to cast informed ballots, and the overall security of our democratic process. It’s time for a serious look at how our votes can be manipulated by “bots” and fake news, and whether the electoral process itself is safe from meddling by internal or external sources.
Federal MPs began important hearings Tuesday on data privacy concerns and their repercussions, and Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien made it clear the data of 622,161 Canadians harvested from Facebook could be used to influence an election in this country.
Yet there is a puzzling, laissez-faire approach from our governments, which seem to find comfort in studies that show the remnants of the mainstream media hold greater levels of trust here than their peers in other countries.
They seem to still take false security from the fact Canada has largely immune to interference or onslaughts of fake news, the likes of which we have seen in Britain, France and the United States. We like to think that we are fail-safe because we have paper ballot backups, but a cyber attack could corrupt the process before we need to start counting by hand.