Stephen Harper is Still Turning Down Your Friend Request

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Government could never have invented something like social media. Yet, more than anyone else, politicians are expected to be accountable to the public when using it.

Ottawa Citizen reporter Glen McGregor was recently inspired — by a similar Slate monitor of Sarah Palin — to track potential Facebook comment deletions on the part of Stephen Harper's squad. And he was rewarded with evidence that many comments critical of the prime minister didn't last long — although some remained.

Should there be a federal standard for which responses are considered acceptable? What if they're attached to a page that fully verified where the commenter was coming from?

Curiously, there are two different official Facebook pages for Harper. The more popular one — with over 67,000 followers — is run by the Conservative party, while a more obscure one is maintained by the Prime Minister's Office, even though their content has been nearly identical. So, the lack of civility might have something to do with its assertively partisan origins.

These issues related to effective communication have now become an inextricable part of the discussion surrounding Government 2.0.

Political campaigning has instead taken precedence over improving bureaucratic function online. While the federal government has pledged to meet a Jan. 1, 2012 deadline to disclose what has been released under access-to-information laws, few expect the Conservative government to voluntarily loosen its grip on data, even if Treasury Board president Tony Clement acknowledged there is much distance left to go in the transparency department.

Throwing policy statement kibbles into the Facebook kennel might seem like a form of outreach on the surface, but those in power seem content to let the dogs fight among themselves, based on the lack of actual two-way social media from the PMO. Yet, if contentiously critical comments are being deleted, somebody must be monitoring them.

What does all of this say about how equipped Ottawa is to deal with how we actually communicate in the digital age?

Metaviews will host an Ottawa event Tuesday, Nov. 22 — "Will There Ever Be Open Government?" Tickets are free while they last.

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