Online Surveillance Bill Teaches Tories Tough Social-Media Lesson: Mess with Internet at Your Peril, Tories Learn

Article excerpt

OTTAWA - In their tough-on-crime approach to legislation, the Conservatives are learning a tough lesson.

Mess with the Internet and it's going to mess with you.

Social-media networks and comment pages exploded Wednesday in opposition to the Harper government's introduction of Bill C-30, which would give police and spies easier access to information about Internet users.

And the centrepiece of the campaign was an anonymous Twitter account purporting to leak details of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews' divorce records.

"Vic wants to know about you. Let's get to know about Vic," wrote @vikileaks before beginning an information dump that also juxtaposed details about the minister's home life with his public comments on family values.

Within hours, the account had over 3,000 followers and inspired hundreds of comments, photo collages and jokes.

Toews was quick to condemn the posts.

"I won't get involved in this kind of gutter politics," he said on his own Twitter account, which has a fraction of the followers of his anonymous attacker.

"Engaging in or responding to this kind of discussion leads nowhere."

Public court records of Toews' divorce have been available for several years, but no major news organizations have pursued the story.

Online campaigns against legislation have been successful in the past, albeit not one that tackled a minister's personal life.

Last year, the Conservatives ordered the CRTC to review a decision on usage-based billing on the Internet after then-Industry Minister Tony Clement's email and Twitter account were flooded with complaints.

In the United States, a massive online campaign against what was known as the Stop Online Piracy Act saw legislators back down and make changes.

The Conservatives are styling Bill C-30 as a law to protect children from online predators, but privacy advocates and opposition MPs say it's far too broad. …