Friday, June 2, 2023

Federal government warning of voter coercion, foreign election interference through private messaging services

The federal government is worried about the risk of voter coercion and foreign election interference through private messaging services — a concern that could pit the right to privacy and free expression against Canada’s election laws.

The warning was tucked into a briefing note prepared for President of the Privy Council Dominic LeBlanc about ongoing issues with social media platforms. Private messaging includes Facebook and Instagram message services, WhatsApp groups and WeChat channels.

“As the platforms move towards private/encrypted conversations as the foundation of how they work, concerns have been raised about the capacity of the tools used for private communications to potentially undermine [Canada Elections Act] provisions, or to facilitate the potential for voter coercion or foreign interference,” says a briefing note, obtained by CBC News through access to information.

“This will introduce difficult considerations, such as the trade-offs between respecting the privacy of private communications and protecting the integrity of the electoral regulatory regime. There will, additionally, be significant challenges for enforcement.”

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