Is the Canadian Government Monitoring Political Messages Online?

Joe Schoffstall | May 24, 2010
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The Canadian government is being accused of monitoring political Web sites in an attempt to correct what they call ‘misinformation’, according to Canada’s News1130. “Under the pilot program the Harper government paid a media company $75,000 to monitor and respond to online postings about the east coast seal hunt.” In other words, they are going around to political forums and news articles and commenting as citizens, in hopes of setting things straight (according to their own definition). Richard Rosenber, a UBC computer science professor and president of the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, told News1130, "The government has a lot of power, that it feels the need to monitor public bulletin boards, or places where people express views and then to respond to that, seems to me going beyond a reasonable action the government should be taking." The claim being hurled at the government is typically associated with the term ‘astroturfing’. Astroturfing denotes “political advertising, or public relations campaigns that are formally planned by an organization, but are disguised as spontaneous, popular "grassroots" behavior.” The irony of the accusation is that Cass Sunstein, Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration, has stated in the past that what the Canadian government is being accused of is exactly what the United States should be doing. Sunstein proposed "cognitively infiltrating" online conspiracy and anti-government groups. Despite these claims, it should be noted that nothing has been proven quite yet.