Ottawa Watched Internet Postings During G8, G20

by Jordan Richardson on January 13, 2011

According to documents obtained by The Globe and Mail, Ottawa’s interest in internet chatter during the G8 and G20 meetings last year was high.

Says Steven Chase: “the Canadian government went to significant lengths to monitor internet chatter and criticism of summits.” The report states that the government tabulated information on what individuals, unions and universities said on various blogs, Twitter accounts, YouTube pages, and even photo sites like The monitoring latched on to thousands of internet references to the G8 and G20 summits.

The reporting and the collection of data was done through the Summit Management Office. They generated weekly reports on the internet dialogue, recording the information with graphs and other implements to track the direction of the online conversation. Part of the purpose for this extensive monitoring was to measure the response to government announcements and rhetoric pertaining to the meetings.

The Summit Management Office is a branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Their responsibilities during the G8 and G20 meetings included keeping tabs on the logistical arrangements of the events. Part of this is presumably to keep tabs on the public relations battle.

One May 2010 study reveals the public’s mood about the security preparations for the events. “The overwhelming tone across all three tiers (cost, perimeter fencing, sound cannons): negative and critical,” it said. “Summit security costs were the primary lightning rod for the criticism.”

The Globe and Mail obtained the analysis through access-to-information legislation. The reporting notes the specific extents to which the government was willing to go with respect to tracking information, even zeroing in on whether bloggers were “anti-Israel” or “pro-Israel.” This data was tracked drawing links between the Gaza Strip flotilla attack and a Canadian visit by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

The object lesson here is obvious: the government of Canada has mechanisms in place to monitor internet chatter of all stripes. From blogs to sites like YouTube, the Harper administration is very interested in how Canadians are talking about the issues and what stances they’re taking. This is calculated observation, one with strict intent that doubtlessly exceeds the confines of the G8 and G20 events and heads into broader political territory.

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JC January 13, 2011 at 8:07 am

I was told at my immagration ceramony that Canada was not “Big Brother.” I’m not so much bothered by them watching how we responded to their announcments (maybe I should be), but watching who is pro or anti Isreal.. That’s just creepy and “Big Brother-ish.”
I wonder if phone tapping is next. 😛

Jordan Richardson January 13, 2011 at 9:06 am

It is certainly interesting to observe who and what the government keeps tabs on. They appear to zero in on certain keywords and terms, applying their security to a particular agenda that, to me, seems to extend beyond the practical and into the ideological.

In any event, we probably shouldn’t be surprised at all.

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