Elections and Astro-Turfing

This August 8th article from the New Statesman discusses astro-turfing during the Brexit referendum. Astro-turfing is the concept of building a high volume of activity to create the illusion of mass support for a position. Before the internet practitioners would generate mail or phone campaigns to politician’s offices. Now they build an online presence using different names. This creates an illusion of mass support or opposition.

The article is more interesting because it shows this is a problem across elections in many nations. Those nations run the gamut from democracies to dictatorships. It also gives examples of elections in which nations have sought to interfere in the elections of other countries.

Senator Frum’s bill (S-239) aims to eliminate foreign funding in federal elections. That is an important first step. But it is not enough. S-239 does not address foreign influence or participation in our elections.

We need further steps to ensure international actors are not shaping our vote. We also need clear disclosure obligations for Canadians who are acting as agents of other countries.

Author: Tom Jarmyn