(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

WATCH: Urban chicken coops a great source for community

Fafards have zero problems with urban hens during pilot project

Study shows early childhood development in Lacombe lagging behind neighbours

Early Years Matter Coalition study shows work needs to be done

Lacombe schools in danger of losing funding over GSA compliance

Education Minister David Eggen said 28 out of 94 accredited funded private schools not in compliance

Urban hens close to being permanent in Lacombe

Council passes first reading of bylaw to extend pilot program permanently

No pumping into Gull Lake for 5 years due to carp concerns

Worries of carp in the Blindman River has put a hold on pumping water into Gull Lake

WATCH: Remembrance Day in Lacombe fills LMC

2018 marked 100 years since the end of First World War

Castor, Forestburg, coal workers get $257,644 to transition to low-carbon economy

Two transition centres will serve seven communities in the Battler River Region

Canada’s health system commendable overall but barriers to care remain: UN

The United Nations says Canada’s health care system is “commendable” overall but vulnerable groups still face barriers to quality care.

Fashion Fridays: 5 coats you need this winter!

Kim XO, lets you know the best online shopping tips during Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Saskatchewan college honours memory of Humboldt Broncos coach

Darcy Haugan wore jersey No. 22 when he was a star player with the Briercrest College Clippers

Liberals to act quickly if Saturday midnight deal deadline breached: source

Oh Friday, Canadian Union of Postal Workers said it would not bring the latest offers to a vote of its members

Police probe several allegations of sex assault at Toronto school

Police say they have learned of other incidents of alleged assault and sexual assault

VIDEO: The definition of a kilogram has officially changed

50-plus countries voted to a ground-breaking overhaul to the international system of measurements

Missing-persons list tops 600 in fire-stricken California

Disaster escalates as officials raised the death toll to 63

Most Read