Craig's Take: Gov't takes on Twitter
Published Friday, February 17, 2012 8:03PM EST
Last Updated Friday, June 8, 2012 11:55AM EDT
For the first time, the power of social media has caught a Canadian government in its cross-hairs.
The Twitter universe has been swamped by opponents of changes in the laws which allow police to collect personal information on Internet users without having to clear it with a judge.
Critics say the government has opened the way for widespread police intrusion into the private lives of Canadians, even though their purpose -- to catch child pornographers -- in itself is desirable.
The most provocative and unprecedented part of this was for one Twitter user to obtain salacious divorce details of Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews, and spread it through the Twitter world.
Another Twitter user started a hashtag called #TellVicEverything, which some regarded as a hilarious put-down of what critics saw as the effort by the public safety minister to use the police to find out their personal information.
Many believe Toews had himself to blame for this reaction when he stated that people who opposed his legislation were on the side of child pornographers, which angered many in the opposition parties who felt this was a civil rights and privacy issue.
An investigation by an Internet-savy newspaper concluded that the anonymous Twitter account originated somewhere in the Parliament buildings, which caused Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to blame the NDP of being the culprit.
Whoever was responsible, it has raised new issues about ethics in journalism and in the use of the Internet. Will the Twitter universe become the new tabloid journalism -- with the great advantage of hiding behind anonymity?
The government House leader called all of this a grave matter and demanded an investigation. But others contend it is no different from using a government computer to write press releases critical of the Conservative party or its MPs, which is a common practice.
We will examine these issues on Question Period this Sunday, with politicians from all parties, including a representative from the Prime Minister's Office, and with experts on the use of social media.