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Federal Politics

Company Ordered to Reveal Who Paid for False Jagmeet Singh Ad

False claim about NDP leader’s ‘mansion’ appeared in Vancouver Courier, History Channel and others.

By Bryan Carney 7 Jun 2019 | TheTyee.ca

Bryan Carney is director of web production at The Tyee and reports on technology and privacy issues. You can follow his very occasional tweets at @bpcarney.

The Commissioner of Canada Elections has ordered a company that hosted an Internet advertisement with a false claim about NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to reveal who paid for the ad, government documents show.

The Tyee first reported on the ad and accompanying article that falsely claimed Singh lived in an opulent mansion. The ad ran prior to the byelection in Burnaby South that Singh eventually won.

The commissioner, responsible for ensuring the Elections Act is followed, has been investigating the origins of the ad for months, according to the website Blacklock’s Reporter, which shared documents it obtained in a freedom of information request with The Tyee.

The documents show investigators sought a judicial order requiring Taboola — the company that hosted the ad that appeared on websites of the Vancouver Courier, the Independent, the History Channel and likely others — to produce information about the advertiser and campaign.

The order was dated March 27 and required the contact information, budget, and other details related to the purchaser to be delivered within 30 days.

The Commissioner of Canada Elections told The Tyee it could not comment on the ongoing investigation.

The Commissioner of Canada Elections sought information including the contact information for the CEO of a company in Israel that investigators suspect is connected to the website “Attorney Cocktail,” which published the false information linked in the advertisement.

The ad was published before new laws brought in under Bill C-76 take effect, Elections Canada previously told The Tyee. However, the ad may have violated three existing clauses of the Election Act.

Canada’s Elections Act requires those that place elections ads to identify themselves in the ad and register as third-party advertisers if they spend over $500. The act further prohibits foreign entities from influencing voters during election periods.

The commissioner required Taboola — which has offices in Toronto and Tel Aviv in addition to New York — to provide information on whether the three requirements were violated.

A Montreal-based lawyer representing Taboola responded to investigators’ initial inquiries stating that it would not reveal the client that placed the false ad unless “ordered to do so by a court of competent jurisdiction.” Elections Canada then obtained the court order.  [Tyee]

Read more: Federal Politics

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