Today the Canadian government announced its intention to table legislation that will bring Canada’s Elections Act into the 21st century. Tim Uppal, the junior minister for democratic reform, tweeted today to share the news. That’s right: next election night, Canadians will be able to discuss election results with all the immediacy, humour and clarity that we bring to tweeting about a hockey game or facebooking the latest episode of Project Runway.
This news was particularly welcome after seeing the extraordinary conversation that was captured last election night on tweettheresults.ca, a website I created with Darren Barefoot last April. Darren and I whipped up the site to track the outpouring of debate and resistance over the prospect of censoring election night tweets, Facebook updates and blog posts. (And a big shout-out to Rad Geek Charles Johnson, who upgraded his awesome FeedWordPress plugin to make TTR look pretty!)
To think that social media users will refrain from sharing election night tweets is at best naive. Even if we could get them to stop tweeting, would we want them to? At a time when online political discussion is held up as the exception to a general decaying of political engagement, it would seem a shame to squelch the kind of lively, engaged and even meaningful conversation that could emerge on election night.
Today’s news may do more than ensure that Canadians feel welcome to engage with an electoral process in whatever medium feels meaningful and appropriate to them. With any luck, it also shows that we are finally ready to embrace the Internet as a legitimate space for political dialogue, and to recognize these online conversations as very real indeed.