McGuinty Calls for Facebook-Based Consultation on License Restrictions

Earlier this fall, I wrote a column on the CRTC's online consultation on new media, commending the CRTC for conducting the consultation but concluding that it takes more than "if you build it, they will come" approach."  I argued that improving on that performance would require government to actually conduct some of its consultations on the various sites and social networks that are already debating the issue.

Interestingly, it appears that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is considering doing just that in response to mounting opposition to proposed restrictions on drivers' licences.  The proposals have galvanized huge interest on Facebook, with one group topping 115,000 members.  McGuinty has acknowledged that conventional public hearings will not address the issue since most younger people will not come to legislative meetings.  Instead, the Premier says "I think we need to find a way to get on Facebook. I think we need to find a way to engage in a dialogue in a social network where they are."  That is exactly right, though a cynic might note (as does the Globe article) that a starting point would be for the government to stop blocking its employees from accessing the hugely popular social network.


  1. One might also note that Facebook is not “the” digital meeting place of all online people. Some of us refuse to use Facebook as we may not agree with their AUP and/or Privacy Policies.

    If the government wants to conduct digital “public hearings” they need to do so independently of proprietary “silos” that don’t necessarily meet everyone’s needs and/or requirements for such basic and important issues such as privacy.

  2. Exactly Brian. Not all of us want to join Facebook, and some of us did briefly, decided we didn’t like it and are stuck with an innactive “account” that will live forever on their server.

    A popular trend lately seems to be smaller, niche group networking/social sites. Ontario’s government could set up a similar site focused on Provincial politics. At the very least we’d have some form of government giving off the impression of understand technology in Canada.

  3. Echoing the sentiment of the posters above. The ability for citizens to better participate in government shouldn’t be left to the trust of a private, foreign corporation with an, at best, dubious track record on privacy.

  4. Missing the point
    Brian, Joe, and Gordon, your concerns about Facebook are valid, but not necessarily pertinent to this issue.

    McGuinty’s intention is to get in touch with the very youth who have joined these Facebook groups to protest the new bill. Whether you like Facebook or not, the fact is that it’s one of the most popular social networking sites out there for the demographic in which McGuinty wants to engage in a dialogue. Regarding Joe’s suggestion to set up a “similar site focused on Provincial politics”: while it’s a sound idea in theory, it won’t be very successful for the same reason that legislative hearings don’t attract the 115,000 people who want to protest this legislation.

    I sincerely doubt that we will be moving all legislative debate, or all political discussion, to Facebook in the near future–that’s not McGuinty’s intention. However, the idea is to go where the people are–and in this case, there are 115,000 people who want answers.

    Perhaps by engaging with their provincial government first through Facebook and social networking, the youth who have risen up to protest this particular legislation will become more interested in politics in general–certainly not all of them, but maybe some of them. Maybe they _will_ start paying attention to more “conventional” methods of political discourse and participating in more publicly-owned spheres of discussion. Looking at McGuinty’s move from this perspective, it seems like a good idea to me.

  5. Facebook Schacebook
    Please… Facebook is a registration required, members only CLOSED social environment that has NO place on publicly funded computers.

    I’m sorry, I’ve griped about this Facebook issue here before. Facebook is a sweaty teenagers version of the greater web. It is nothing but endless rattle and gossip, photos of drunk and wasted partiers and a place that kids without a meaningful life hangout to try an fit in yet again.

    Facebook is NOT the place to have meaningful discussions. Anyone can start an online discussion forum and accomplish pretty much the same things as Facebook except Facebook has this myth of being something useful. It’s a fad that will fade.

    Facebook is where businesses and causes go to collect names for whatever because it’s a hell of a lot easier to get kids to click the add friend button or an online poll than to to something that even resembles meaningful engagement.

    Governments around the world can setup discussions boards on their website in 20 minutes. Let the REAL engagement begin.

    Forcing literate and higher functioning adults into the Facebook environment simply won’t address the engagement or informative requirements of this or other hot button issues in today’s society.

    What’s next? Virtual Parliament meetings in Second Life. Public service announcements on Twitter? Please! It starts to sound like a IPO presser after a while.

    I’m all for innovative ways to engage and communicate but please. Facebook is NOT only place to communicate on the world wide web. Why not start on our own publicly funded and operated, not to mention OPEN to all government web sites instead!

  6. Don’t be blinded by the numbers
    In response to Prof. Geist’s post and Ben’s comment:

    I would be cautious about using group membership numbers alone as an accurate indicator of dedicated support. Of these 115,000 people, how many of them are going to be active participants in dialogue with policy makers?

    This is why a provincial site would have lower user numbers and wouldn’t be perceived as successful; only the dedicated minority would participate. However, it would at least be meaningful discussion on a public platform with public accountability that doesn’t shutout the large number of people (including young people like me) who are not comfortable with giving Facebook carte blanche with their personal information.

    It’s easy for people to join a Facebook group; there are hundreds of groups dedicated to no purpose other than to have a large group count. Registering and participating in a different site is more work than most users are willing to bother with.

    Facebook can be a great tool for raising awareness and it’s great that all these people have joined, but if that’s the extent to the effort that people are willing to put in it’s about as meaningful as an online petition.

  7. Bingo.
    Naveed, I could not have said it better.

  8. Too bad Canadian IT costs are too much
    i agree with the top poster
    a lot a people knowo fo the bad aspect of facebook and will sign up and never post , just as a sign of numbers, if the gov’t really wanted to show somehting like this.

    Allow net neutrality, forece lower bandwidth costs and people might start such things in canada.

    It is so cost prohibitive to do IT business now in Canada as to be useless to try it here.

    Go ahead compare web hosting pricing in Canada to ANYWHERE.
    As the local shop owner what his website costs.
    Know that where i to offer it, this site could be entirely hosted for a mere 1$ a month CAD.
    And guess what for the space and bandwidth it uses, i would make a profit! BUT NOT HOSTING IT IN CANADA.

  9. btw if you consider numbers

    remember that copyright law one set a numbers that went round, that came form hollywood ya that trusting lot ( this was a sandvine number set)

    was number of users simaltaneously logged into various p2p networks.

    2005- september 5.4 million !!!!!
    2006- March 9.8 million !!!!!

    NOW i know loads dont want to sign up to facebook nor ocme out of there private lil safe areas.
    if 100,000 did that would mean that perhaps 1% or a tenth that are ballsy enough to do it.

    Do not under estimate numbers, should a ocnservative govt go as bushes regime did and mistreat people and take rights away , they will get obama’s too!!!!

    Without that green shift you might even recover some seats lost to neo cons.

    And considering we now know why harper called that snap election wasn’t the govt was disfunctional , it was cause he KNEW it was screwed economy.

    Myguinty here in ontario is or has been told that this is a new reality that the internet is here, and that if they look at obama to the south they all know whats coming here too. We will contiinue to gain more strength and voice. Sooner or later if all these parties keep ignoring it they will go and a new party may emerge.

    if there is a new election dont waste it on the greens, vote liberal in liberal stronger areas, and NDP in NDP stronger areas.
    AND in quebec just vote for the bloc.

  10. Facebook, maybe not such a good idea.
    In light of the recent Myspace bullying decision in the US.
    Social networking sites may not be the safest haven.

    I would suggest if the Government wants input from on-line Canadians they need to take the time to set up and host their own site.
    Access should be free and easy perhaps more like the UK 10 Downing Street petitions access and not for example like the website rabbit warren run by the CRTC.

  11. btw that was a USA decision LOL the privacy law of canada is a lot more strick and if you bully your a noob anyhow.

    Oh modeling anyhting after the UK is a extreme no no. Go ahead and look up the UK’s human rights , they are going down as almost as many abuses as china for say surveilance. That leads to much more abuse.

    If you want to look at law as pertaining to what seting up a facebook INSIDE Canada, rather then in the USA. Then ALL our laws and the privacy law would apply , all thats required is to straighten out the ISP’s use of DPI ( Deep Packet Inspection ) or as they admit “it oculd be used to spy but we don’t do that”
    YA we trust you bell

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    AND in quebec just vote for the bloc.

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