(English) Last year’s U.S. presidential election was unfairly undermined by online social media ads containing fake news, lies about candidates, and other false claims. These ads were targeted at tens of millions of voters, and only those voters would see them in their Facebook and other social media feeds. As a result, election watchdog agencies could do nothing to stop these secret ads.
Secret false social media ads will very likely mislead millions of voters in the next Canadian election — unless they are effectively stopped.
It is already illegal to make false claims about an election candidate. The Canada Elections Act also limits the amount lobby groups and individuals can spend on elections ads — to stop wealthy interests from dominating election debates. However, if those groups and individuals can advertise in secret on social media sites or with targeted ads on media sites, they can easily make false claims and spend much more than the legal limit without Elections Canada or the Commissioner of Canada Elections finding them.
Please work together and pass a law to:
1. prohibit media and social media companies from publishing election-related ads during the six months leading up to an election if the ad is paid for with foreign currency (such as Russian rubles);
2. require media and social media companies to report every election-related ad to the election law enforcement agency (for example, at the federal level the Chief Electoral Officer and the Commissioner of Canada Elections) during the six months leading up to an election so the ad can be reviewed to determine if it makes a clearly false claim about a party or candidate;
3. require media and social media companies to report to the election law enforcement agency who placed and paid for each ad, and how much was spent on the ad, so the agency can determine if the amount spent on the ad violates the legal limit (including the amount spent on having employees or contractors or bots share, like or retweet the ad);
4. require candidates, political parties and third party interest groups and individuals to report to the election law enforcement agency every election-related advertisement, and the text of any mass-distributed phone call/robocall, email, text or other form of electronic/digital communication to Elections Canada and the Commissioner of Canada Elections during the six months leading up to an election so the communication can be reviewed to determine if it makes a clearly false claim about a party or candidate, including who placed and paid for each communication (with that information required to be included in the communication), and how much was spent on ad or other form of electronic/digital communication, so that it can be determined if the amount spent violates the legal limit (including the amount spent on having employees or contractors or bots share, like or retweet the ad or other form of communication);
5. to establish an independent commission (whose members are appointed by non-governmental bodies like the Canadian Judicial Council) to conduct a public, merit-based search for the head of the election law enforcement agency, and to give a shortlist of nominees to the leaders of parties that have politicians in the legislature, and require the leaders to choose from the shortlist one person to head the election agency;
6. give the head of the election law enforcement agency the power to order clearly false, illegal ads be deleted from media and social media sites, and require the head to issue these orders within a few days of receiving the information about each ad, and;
7. give the head of the election law enforcement agency the power to impose significant fines on media and social media companies and advertisers who violate the rules (the fines must be large enough to discourage attempts to violate the rules).
Like media companies, social media companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter know who pays for each ad on their site, how much they spend, and what each ad says — so they can easily report this information to Elections Canada. If the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Elections Canada is appointed after a merit-based searched with the unanimous approval of all party leaders in the House of Commons, the CEO will have the independence and impartiality needed to make fair rulings about whether election-related social media ads are true or clearly false, and to verify whether the amount spent on an ad is more than the legal limit.
Please let me know what you will do to ensure that this law is passed as soon as possible. I will be deciding which political party to vote for in the next election based on the responses I receive from representatives in each party. I look forward to hearing from you.