Canada elections ready to tackle fake news

Trolls may already be active in contentious pipeline projects
TRENTON, Canada: Canada is setting up defenses to protect against fake news, cyberattacks and outside intrusions in the next year’s federal elections, Canadian media reported Tuesday.
The threat posed by foreign influences affecting voting through fraudulent stories on social media has already infiltrated U.S. politics.
Because of the scandal surrounding Russian intrusion in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Canada is forewarned, said the country’s Chief Electoral Officer Stephane Perrault.
“I think there was a vigilance that emerged from that situation,” he said.
It was also reported Tuesday that Russian trolls, through social media, may be adding fuel to the fire in contentious oil pipeline construction projects in Canada.
The provinces of British Columbia and Alberta are embroiled in a dispute regarding the TransMountain pipeline. British Columbia wants an extensive study of a crude oil spill on water before it allows an increase in bitumen flowing through the pipeline. Alberta responded by moving to stop electrical purchase contracts from British Columbia.
“Already there is a wide rift in the knowledge that people have with regard to these projects,” said John Zabiuk, a network security expert with the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. “What that really means to the general person who doesn’t know a lot, all they’re doing is following what they see on Facebook or what they see on Twitter. That is definitely going to influence them, and that is probably the majority of people.”
All this comes as a Canadian, Christopher Wylie, admits he was part of a scheme that invaded the privacy of 50 million Facebook users, using the information to influence voters and help bolster the campaign to make Donald Trump president.
Wylie is a data analytic expert who mined private Facebook accounts for the firm Cambridge Analytica and used the information to enhance Trump’s election chances. He then blew the whistle this week on the scheme because it was a “problematic” invasion of privacy.
“It allowed us to profile upwards of 50 million Americans over a span of a couple of months and understand not only their personality traits but how they think … and what exactly we need to do in order to pick at certain mental or emotional vulnerabilities so that those people would behave in a particular way that was conducive to [Trump campaign chief executive] Steve Bannon’s objective,” he said.
Facebook’s stock has gone in to free fall since the news was disclosed.
On the other side of fighting misinformation, a new study commissioned for Elections Canada showed that Canadians have a high degree of trust in reputable news sources as well as its government. This is the exact opposite of the attitude in the U.S., according to recent surveys.
“That’s fairly significant in terms of the level of literacy about the issue of fake news,” Perrault said. “I think we have to be not complacent about the issue of fake news, but I do think that the (Canadian) population is perhaps more ready for it than the American population was in the presidential election.”
The Canadian federal election is Oct. 21, 2019, and Elections Canada has joined with various government and security agencies to bolster cyber security and make Canadians aware of the dangers of fake news.
Elections Canada has also beefed up information technology safeguards and will conduct an audit in the near future to identify and plug any remaining gaps.–AA

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