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Ontario Government Considers Facebook Consultation

This post originally appeared on Techdirt.

The Ontario Premier says he wants to engage young people in dialogue on Facebook (via Michael Geist) over protests against proposed restrictions on young drivers. The strict, zero-tolerance proposals have caused many young people to speak out on Facebook, and one protest group now has over 140,000 members. The Premier has responded publicly, “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,” noting that most young people won’t come to the traditional legislative meetings. There’s one snag though — government computers currently block Facebook.

This isn’t the first time a Facebook group has caught the attention of Canadian politicians (it’s also not the first time this Ontario government has proposed controversial driving laws). Over the past year, a Facebook group, created by Geist, protesting proposed copyright legislation, was mentioned repeatedly by the opposition in federal parliament. This time, the government itself is bringing an online protest to attention. The idea of Facebook consultations drew some criticism in the comments on Geist’s post — why should the government conduct its business on a proprietary, privately owned silo? But Geist isn’t suggesting that the government rely on Facebook or any one service, just that they could make use of services that people are already using. Facebook is especially relevant for legislation affecting young voters. In an earlier column, Geist notes that it takes more than just an “if you build it, they will come” approach. Governments could broaden their online consultation strategies to include a presence on social networks where active dialogue is already taking place. In this particular case, it’s still a bit too early to tell if this is just talk or if the government is serious about experimenting. A good first step might be to reconsider that Facebook ban.

Read the comments on Techdirt.

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