The Social Media Election?

A simple question for Slaw-yers: was #Elxn41 the “Social Media Election”?

The term was tossed about during the campaign with conjecture on how social media would impact the election; so now that the election is over and we have had some time to reflect, was it the “social media election”? I am unsure, but my inclination is that it was not. Primarily because I did not see a lot of content generated specifically for social media, nor have I observed an impact that can be attributed to social media. I saw of lot of content generated in a traditional fashion and then migrated to the social media platform but I did not see a party use social media to a competitive advantage. Despite initial projections of high voter turnout the eventual number did not match those projections.

Social media was used a great deal by individuals, such that #Elxn41 and #CdnPoli became popular hashtags; my impression of that commentary was largely of individuals commenting on what they perceived in the election. I remain unsure about my inclination to a negative answer to the question because there easily could have been something I missed, but what I saw was a campaign conducted in a largely traditional fashion and I have difficulty perceiving the impact social media had on the election, so that is why I’m posting the question here at Slaw.

I believe that a party or candidate that seizes social media and uses it is as a primary means of communicating with an electorate will have a competitive advantage, I just didn’t see it this time. I think #Elxn41 was a trial run and that #Elxn42 will be the true social media election. Hopefully, by that time we will have figured something out regarding s 329 of the Canada Elections Act

“No person shall transmit the result or purported result of the vote in an electoral district to the public in another electoral district before the close of all of the polling stations in that other electoral district.”

An act, by the way, that mentions “the Internet” twice….. without ever really acknowledging what it is. In both 319 and 324: “…on what is commonly known as the Internet.” The act must either recognize the internet exists, accept it and drop the prohibition on broadcasting or simply keep results confidential until all polls in the country have closed. This section has been tried before in R v Bryan, 2007 SCC 12; however, that judgment does not lend clarity to the fact that social media is here, it cannot be silenced and that the line between communicating and broadcasting is becoming blurred.

So to reiterate, was #Elxn41 the “Social Media Election”?


  1. Michael Alexis

    I think Youtube holds plenty of potential for candidates. An impressive 30 second snippet of Jack Layton at the debate seems a powerful vehicle for conveying simple messages. However, I agree that social media wasn’t used to full effect: with most videos only tallying a few thousand views.

  2. Wendy Reynolds

    What we’ve seen so far is a very traditional approach to the new medium. Candidates are using social media to broadcast their platforms. I noticed many sites where comments were turned off. Not very social!

    With a provincial election coming this fall in Ontario, I’m looking forward to see if there are signs of learning in the interim.

  3. David Collier-Brown

    I speculate that this was the early adopters’ first “social media” election, but I strongly believe that this was a very “television” election.

    The two legally interesting points were, IMHO,the failing prohibition on tweeting results, and what appears to be a failing prohibition on political advertising outside the election period.

    The latter was variously blamed for the fall of Michael Ignatieff and/or the rise of Jack Layton…


  4. I don’t suppose there is any hope that ‘social media’ could ever become in practice what it is in etymology and also in sense, i.e. a plural noun? There is such a diversity of phenomena, not to say apps, among the social media that I would have thought that a plural verb would impose itself, but it has not, clearly.

    The singular give me a bit of a shiver, anyway, every time I see it. Not quite as bad as “between you and I”, but not pleasant either.

  5. Interesting to hear that my inclination is shared by some of you. Any dissenters? I think the Ontario election is too close for there to be a real difference, unless an individual within some party seizes the advantage. I still look for #elxn42 to be the election where social media moves off the periphery. John, have you seen what passes for grammar in social media? Sadly, I think that the hope of anything grammatical imposing itself in social media is way beyond faint hope.

  6. For those interested, parliamentary newspaper Hill Times ran story on just how influential if at all, Twitter is.

    And a quote from story: War room veteran and former NDP press secretary Ian Capstick, owner of the Ottawa communications company MediaStyle, estimated parties were spending not more than $15,000 on a couple of social media-based staffers each and monitoring software. That’s small potatoes compared to what they might spend on online advertising, he said.