Imagine the reaction if the federal Liberal government came out and said what it actually feels: “We’re smarter than Canadian voters and we want to help them make the right choice in elections by monitoring what they can see and read.”
That’s essentially what a trio of Trudeau government cabinet ministers said this past Wednesday when they revealed the governments’ “critical election incident protocol” for this fall’s federal campaign.
Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told a news conference in Ottawa that national security agencies will monitor both foreign and domestic Internet activity. If anyone or any group appears to be using social media to manipulate the outcome of the Oct. 21 vote, the agencies will inform a group of five senior civil servants.
That quintet – the clerk of the Privy Council, the national security adviser and the deputy ministers of Justice, Public Safety and Global Affairs – will then decide whether the activity poses a threat to an honest election. If it does, they will issue a public statement explaining the hack and countering the misinformation in it.
The goal is to stop “fake news” and “orchestrated disinformation campaigns.”
“Let me be clear,” Gould stated. “This is not about refereeing the election. This is about alerting Canadians of an incident that jeopardizes their rights to a free and fair election.”
Fair enough. We don’t want to be plunged into two (or more) years of claims, counterclaims and special investigations, the way the Americans have over alleged collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign in the 2016 presidential election.
But who gets to decide what constitutes “disinformation?”