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Microsoft adds elections to lobbying file

Briefs | 04/24/2019 6:29 pm EDT

The tech giant Microsoft Corp. last week added “elections” to its lobbying files.

The move comes as the government rolls out a new regime governing the selling of political ads on tech platforms ahead of this fall’s federal election, and tech companies decide whether they will comply or forgo election advertising altogether.  

In December, the passage of the Elections Modernization Act mandated that big tech companies would have to make it clear who was paying for political advertisements on their platforms by linking to a public registry. Elections Canada today released a new set of guidelines for how those rules will be applied when the ad registry comes into effect on June 13.

Microsoft’s Bing search engine announced last week that it would “disallow advertising for election related content, political parties, candidates, and ballot measures globally” after having announced in October that it would do so in the U.S. “This policy and enforcement will be rolled out globally in coming months, beginning first with France on April 15th,” a Microsoft statement said. It is unclear when the company will pull ads in Canada.  Microsoft didn’t respond to questions about the registration.

Facebook Inc. has said it will comply with the new rules in Canada, while Alphabet Inc.’s Google said it won’t bother bother selling the ads in the first place. Twitter Inc. hasn’t said yet whether or not it will comply.

Microsoft has met with federal officials three times this year on the subject of elections, including with Democratic Institutions Minister Katrina Gould and with officials from the Global Affairs and Public Safety ministries, according to the federal lobby registry.

The company is already registered to lobby on a host of other topics, including telecommunications, international relations, industry, and budget matters.

Microsoft’s election lobbying move comes the same month that Twitter added the education of federal officials on social media to its own lobbying files.  

Earlier this month, the Communications Security Establishment declared it “very likely” that Canadians would experience some form of cyber foreign interference, though probably on a smaller scale than in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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