(The Canadian Press)

Election watchdog seeks digitally savvy specialists to zero in on threats

Move follows troublesome evidence of online Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election

Canada’s election watchdog is seeking three specialists to analyze social media for threats to the integrity of the next federal election, a move that follows troublesome evidence of online Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential vote.

In a recruitment notice issued Monday, the Commissioner of Canada Elections says the specialists will collect and methodically scrutinize content from social media, blogs, chat rooms, message boards, and video and image-sharing websites.

The commissioner’s office is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Canada Elections Act and will be especially mindful of attempts to use “fake news” and disinformation to sway voters in the run-up to the 2019 general election.

The two English-speaking and one bilingual contract employees, to begin work in January, will not simply monitor social media feeds but use analytical skills to support investigations and detect current and emerging risks.

READ MORE: Former CIA Director says Trump worked with Russians and now he’s desperate

They will be responsible for regularly briefing investigators and management on trends involving social media and other public information sources that might affect the electoral process.

The specialists could also be called on to help with court proceedings by preparing electronic evidence and giving testimony, the recruitment notice says.

Under the proposed terms, each contractor would work up to 220 days next year, and the contracts could be extended for up to three additional years.

“I think we’re anticipating that there’ll be a need for it, which is why we’ve done it this way,” said Michelle Laliberte, a spokeswoman for the commissioner.

“It’s bolstering what we have currently in-house on a temporary basis.”

While interference through social media wasn’t a major issue in Canada’s last general election, the commissioner’s office wants to be ready “based on what we’re observing in other countries,” she added.

Last year Facebook said hundreds of dubious accounts, likely operated out of Russia, spent about $100,000 on some 3,000 ads about contentious issues such as LGBT rights, race, immigration and guns from June 2015 to May 2017.

Facebook later said an estimated 10 million people in the United States saw the ads.

Canada’s cyberspy agency, the Communications Security Establishment, warned in a report for the Liberal government last year that cyberthreat activity against democratic processes is increasing around the world, and Canada is not immune.

The new Canadian Centre for Cyber Security plans to pick up the thread and update the report early in the new year.

Scott Jones, head of the centre, is already seeing heightened public awareness about online threats to elections.

“One of the big changes that we’ve seen is, there is a conversation happening around this,” Jones said in a recent interview.

“Our goal is to continue the dialogue, to continue to work on our ability to protect and defend.”

But Jones said he also wants to help Canadians be more discriminating “connoisseurs” of the information they consume. ”How can we be better users of social media?”

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Gathering in Salmon Arm to offer support, resources after shooting

Agencies join to provide practical assistance from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 23 at rec centre

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: Clear skies and pushing 20 C

Environement Canada forcasts a sunny and warm Easter weekend

Have your say on proposed ban of single use plastic bags

Salmon Arm to hold public information session on bylaw this Tuesday, April 23

Peeling away: OK strip clubs disappearing

Hear from Penticton’s only strip club owner about their success in a dying industry

Update: Fire destroys Peachland home on Somerset Avenue

Crews are still on scene pumping water onto the blaze

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Summerland student examines effects of sound

Science fair project will go to national competition in New Brunswick

Cuteness overload: duckling thinks dog is its mom

Vernon photographer Fiona Hook shot a cute video after noticing one of her ducklings had taken a special liking to her dog.

Fire near Vernon airport “not a concern”

Vernon firefighters attended the scene and found a resident performing a controlled burn

Sons of Anarchy’s Kim Coates stops by Okanagan café

Coates was spotted in West Bank’s Kekuli Café on April 20

B.C. women make 2,200 cabbage rolls for charity

The money raised was donated to former NHL player Aaron Volpatti, who is raising funds for ALS

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

B.C. mom wages battle to get back four kids taken from her in Egypt

Sara Lessing of Mission has help from Abbotsford law firm

Most Read