David R. Henderson  

The Race Between Technology and Oppression

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Will Twitter Undercut Censorship?

Although I know my vote doesn't matter and I agree with Bryan Caplan about most of his criticisms of democracy, I'm somewhat of a political junkie. So I've been on line all evening watching the highlights of Canada's federal election. I couldn't get any results until the polls closed in British Columbia because of a 1938 federal law that prohibits people from spreading news about election results until the polls in the West have closed.

Have they heard of Twitter? Actually, yes. And the government announced in advance that it plans to prosecute those who tweeted before 7:00 p.m. PDT. Will Twitter undercut censorship? We'll see.

HT to Peter Holle.


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COMMENTS (5 to date)
Julien Couvreur writes:

The problem of government censorship is a Gordian knot, due to lack of ownership.
What are the best rules doe elections? How do we know?

Now, contrast that with some private event. The organizer can set rules, such as not tweeting (otherwise they prosecute you or kick you out of the club, depending on the contract). Maybe drastic restrictions are justified.

The problem of free speech and censorship is a problem of public events and public spaces. Because they are "owned by all", there somehow has to be a single set of rules. Those rules will be very polarizing, as they will be forced onto your neighbors. This incites conflict, not peaceful cooperation. The whole political process is broken from the start, and unavoidably so (as soon as you accept the premise of non-voluntary collective ownership).

In short, I don't know that the rule you mention is censorship or not.

People who disagree with the rule will call it censorship, and others will call it legitimate, legal and justified. It's subjective and depends on preferences. In the non-voluntary "public" realm, we attempt to square the circle and come up with aggregate valuation and preferences. In a way, Arrow's theorem shows that the aggregation method itself isn't neutral or absolute, which brings you back to square one (how do you decide on the aggregation method?).

David R. Henderson writes:

@Julien Couvreur,
I think you need to distinguish between rules for elections and rules for communication. If I find something out about an election, why should the government have the power to prevent me from telling someone else?

8 writes:

If a political party can show that it suffered depressed turnout, can it sue the Twit (Tweeter?).

I think the solution is to adapt with the technology. Polls should open later in the East and close earlier in the West. Will that depress turnout? That's what they say about early results...

Pierre writes:

I retweeted a few things that might have been results. Don't know if they were results, and I have no idea if that counts as publishing them on my own.

As for censorship, of course it's censorship. That it might also be legal and justified censorship is a separate question!

Pierre

Evan writes:

My favorite line from this whole thing:

"Hey everyone--keep going ahead with #tweettheresults--if you all get fined $25k, we may actually kill our deficit!"

Obviously that was from Tweet the Results. I was also amused that the MSM accidentally started broadcasting results before it was time.

So far the media doubts there will be any prosecutions, but we'll have to wait and see.

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