From left: members of the Alberni Valley Pride Society cut a ribbon last July on Vancouver Island; a volunteer in Alberta paints a rainbow crosswalk in Maskwacis this week; and a Fernie Secondary work party paints a rainbow crosswalk last year. (Elena Rardon/contributed/Ezra Black photos)

From left: members of the Alberni Valley Pride Society cut a ribbon last July on Vancouver Island; a volunteer in Alberta paints a rainbow crosswalk in Maskwacis this week; and a Fernie Secondary work party paints a rainbow crosswalk last year. (Elena Rardon/contributed/Ezra Black photos)

COLUMN: Miscalculating support for anti-rainbow cause

Hijacked poll shows how far some will go to show that their opinion is not in the minority

For countless people, winning must be solely a numbers game – ethics be damned.

That’s the only answer I came up with this week after our Peace Arch News weekly online poll was hijacked for the second time in as many months.

The first poll hijacked was posted on May 10, when we asked: “Should Prime Minister Justin Trudeau be elected to a second term of office in 2019?”

Turns out, campaigners on both sides wanted to show that theirs was in the majority. Two unique IP addresses – the code that shows where each vote originated from – recorded 104 votes all by themselves, and were promptly blacklisted. The final tally was 179 ‘yes’ and 440 ‘no’.

Last week’s question, however, was a bit different, which perhaps shows the evolution of cyber-campaigning.

We asked: “Do you support rainbow crosswalks to send a message of inclusiveness with our LGBT community?”

In the first days, more than 3,200 votes were tabulated – a ‘no’ majority.

However, IP search showed that in addition to the handful of addresses that recorded a combined 1,252 responses, there were hundreds more – a digit or two off – that each recorded fewer than five votes.

Now, while mostly-matching digits don’t guarantee matching sources, further search showed similar codes originated from identical tech firms. In fact, one office in Paris was responsible for hundreds and hundreds of negative responses. We received hundreds more from U.S. IP addresses, too, but for some reason many traced back to the Netherlands.

Thus, we were left with the impossibly time-consuming task of eliminating bogus responses one at a time, or otherwise doing our level best to have our published numbers indicate real people’s response.

Truth be told, today’s posted results show that 1,482 respondents support rainbow crosswalks and 611 do not, but they include responses from Cayman Islands, Croatia, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Thailand and the U.K. – each with one or two votes – plus a whopping 11 from Australia.

Oddly, remaining U.S.-listed responses tally in at 88 yes and 166 no; French responses, 2 yes and 90 no.

Most noteworthy, I would think, is that Canadian IP addresses recorded 1,321 in support and 321 not.

What does this all mean? Well, I am hopeful readers understand such polls are not scientific. There is no accurate-plus-or-minus-three-per-cent-19-times-out-of-20. These polls are for entertainment purposes only.

Our intent is to address issues that inspire respondents to really think about the questions and their answers. We don’t know if results represent a portion of our community, only that they typically represent a portion of readers with interest in a given topic and access to an Internet connection.

Now, I don’t know if even that is true anymore, thanks to global ‘web optimization’ companies who no doubt also use their skills to influence – and perhaps buy – major elections.

As to why someone would want to squander their time, money and own ethics to hijack a minor poll on rainbow crosswalks in Smalltown, B.C., perhaps that’s simply one more question to really think about.

Lance Peverley is the editor of Peace Arch News.

 

COLUMN: Miscalculating support for anti-rainbow cause