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Canada can expect election meddling, but not on scale seen in U.S., spies warn

Last Updated Apr 8, 2019 at 5:49 pm PDT

A voter casts a ballot in the 2011 federal election in Toronto on May 2, 2011. It is very likely that Canadian voters will experience some kind of online foreign interference related to the coming federal election, a new report from the national cyberspy agency warns. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Summary

Canada's cyberspy agency says it's likely voters will experience some kind of foreign interference in upcoming election

New report suggests Canada can expect foreign adversaries to try to sway voters in upcoming federal election

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – Canada’s national cyberspy agency says it is very likely voters will experience some kind of online foreign interference related to the coming federal election.

Whether it be fake news or fake accounts trying to influence your vote, the Communications Security Establishment says voters should be informed and prepared for interference.

Despite its belief that foreign interference will take place, the CSE does not believe the meddling will be as extensive as the Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The goal, however, according to Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould, is the same.

“To create disruption, sow division, and generate disengagement or polarization,” she said. “A lot left to be desired in terms of how seriously they’re taking these issued.”

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan adds the report shows voters need to be prepared.

“Cyber threat actors continue to manipulate online information in order to influence voters’ opinions and behaviours,” he said.

The CSE says there was a threefold increase in cyber threat activities to elections around the world over the last three years.

As the threat looms, Gould adds Canada is prepared to act.

“At all times we are working with our security and intelligence partners, and steadying global best practices to mitigate the risk,” she said. “We will not accept malicious activity during our elections and we are prepared to confront it.”

Gould also called out Twitter, Facebook and other social media companies, saying they don’t seem to be taking this threat seriously enough and haven’t done enough to battle foreign interference.

“Facebook has taken a few more steps than perhaps Google or Twitter, but it’s still not sufficient. I think there’s much more that they could do.”

She does not rule out regulating social media companies, which is something being considered by allies like Britain.

Google has responded with a statement listing the actions it has taken to fight misinformation and says it looks forward to continuing its work with the government to protect our elections and democratic institutions.

-With files from the Canadian Press