SoundCloud Enters The Fray As A Citizen Voice Tool

The Canadian province of Quebec is in a provincial election right now. A key battle in the war of perceptions is the media and Liberals pushing the “separation” issue, that the Partis Quebecois if taking a majority government, will pursue a referendum seeking separation of Quebec from Canada.

SoundCloud As A Voice of Democracy?
Most consumers will associate SoundCloud as a place to share and discover new music. Artists post their music to gain audience share and perhaps some revenues and ultimately a recording contract.

But here is a clip of a Quebec resident (so it would seem) who recorded his interaction at an election poll in Quebec. What is obvious is that he’s not being allowed to register to vote (this fact cannot be verified), and it would appear he is getting the run-around from the elections officials. It is interesting when it is stated (at 7:47) by the lady that “we’ve been loaded up with English students…”. The Elections lady at a few points indicates they cannot “interpret the law” though they are obviously doing so, and also states the website for the electoral authority is confusing.

While we cannot verify the rules and regulations of the Quebec elections act, what is obvious is that there is some disingenuous bafflement underway. The lady making statements indicates there are “hundreds” of people with these issues and then goes through a couple of examples of residents but doesn’t qualify. She also indicates “we are getting many emails from students…” so it begs some interesting questions on what is happening on the ground.

The comments in French suggest the entire interview was “faked”, yet provide no insight as to how, why or when. This posting comes via AnonMcGill it would seem; this also cannot be verified, while it might be “faked” it would seem rather a difficult task to complete, so it is possibly quite real. If so, it poses some interesting questions.

Is this indeed an act of “voter suppression” in Quebec?

Monitoring The Separation Issue in the Quebec Election on Social Media
At Envoy Centre we are monitoring the online discussions taking place (in English) around the Quebec election. On Twitter we are tracking #polqc, #CAQ, #qc2014 and quite a few keywords and phrases. Informally at this point, we are seeing a significant trending of people outside Quebec (n=10,000 cleaned) that believe Marois will call a referendum if elected as a majority government. The discussion in social media is quite rampant and will no doubt grow as we enter the final phase of the election.

Voice Recordings Playing A Role in Online Election Dialogue
The use of SoundCloud as a tool to record interactions is interesting. For the most part in the past few years (Arab Spring et al) we’ve been focused on visual elements (YouTube, Flickr etc.) to provide proof, but digital cameras and cellphones can be very obvious as a recording device…holding up your SmartPhone is an obvious recording signal that people will avoid….bringing in a handycam or large video camera, well that’s slightly more obvious. But getting voice recordings is incredibly simple and subtle. There are a number of free and paid apps in Android, iOS for Apple and BlackBerry that can be used. Microphones in mobile phones are of increasingly better quality and can be hidden away easily.

The Montreal Gazette and Twitter Mood
Interestingly, in 2012 the Montreal Gazette ran a Twitter “mood-o-meter” on the provincial election, but is not doing it this time (the link. It could be expense (an easy message to cite) or it could be a perceived lack of interest. Although that is suspicious given the national attention in Canada on the issue.

The Quebec election is showing quite a national interest across social media, and there is definitively a lively social media discussion taking place. At this point we largely see national coverage coming from CBC with secondary from CTV and a sideways glance from GlobalTV. The Globe and Mail has some speculations and the National Post a more business oriented set of views. So far, our analysis would indicate national news media is giving little voice to Marois and her party, focusing on the separation issue and ignoring the provincial aspects…not entirely unusual. But given the implications to a country, the general non-coverage of the social media discussion volume is interesting. That poses a few questions: is Canadian English news media strangled by budget constraints to analyse French discussion? Do they think just a focus on the separation issue is enough and only warrants general headlines? Are they extricating themselves from the issue?

That SoundCloud has been chosen as a platform outside of Twitter and YouTube or Facebook as the “usual suspects” points to the growing sophistication of citizen advocacy groups to add new channels…with provincial and federal governments missing these new channels entirely?

Implications for Social Media and the Canadian 2015 Federal Election
While the Canadian Liberal, NDP and Conservative parties have well entrenched themselves in the “usual” social media channels of Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and grudgingly Tumblr, this may indicate that new successful, but still slightly underground channels, will play a subtle yet important role in the next Canadian federal election.

More to come on this issue. Let us know your thoughts…

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