How many Canadian government bureaucrats does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Not too many, as long as they don't have to tweet about it.
In a hilarious but embarrassing story, CTV News reports that Industry Canada follows an absolutely anguished process for tweeting through the department's account. Involving multiple levels of scrutiny, fact-checking, and policy adherence, the group has turned engagement an otherwise off-the-cuff medium into a scene straight out of Brazil, Terry Gilliam's 1985 fantasy flick about a nightmarishly bureaucratic dystopia.
According to accounts obtained through the Access to Information Act, the tweets are planned weeks in advance and scrubbed clean by government employees, who secure commitments from other agencies days in advance to retweet the messages once they're posted. This hand-wringing is brought to you by the very agency responsible for promoting innovation in Canada's knowledge-based economy.
What are results of these multiple layers of social media meddling? Take a gander at a few of Industry Canada's banal tweets:
— Industry Canada (@industrycanada) January 17, 2014
— Industry Canada (@industrycanada) January 15, 2014
Riveting stuff, that.
Canada's staffers are merely are likely just following orders and playing it safe in order to avoid colossal Twitter mishaps, like the ones that befell Kenneth Cole (who tweeted that the Cairo uprising was due to their fabulous new spring collection) and Chrysler (who dropped the F-bomb on their Twitter account while complaining about Detroit drivers). Nobody wants to make history like Justine Sacco, the IAC spokeswoman who boarded a plane for Africa shortly after tweeting "Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!"
Government employees are only human, after all, and in the wake of these revelations about Industry Canada's attempts to tame the untameable Twitter, it comes as more of a thrill to remember my own social media brush with Industry Canada's boss. During the furor over the Big Three telecommunications companies' filthy fibbing as they tried to dissuade US-based Viacom from bidding in the spectrum auction, i was more than happy to see Industry Minister James Moore calling them out on their shenanigans. i even said so, in a tweet that that invoked his Twitter handle:
— Untold Entertainment (@UntoldEnt) August 14, 2013
Cool, James. Cool.
CTV reports that the Industry Canada social media policy keeps the minister's Twitter out of departmental tweets. Does that policy protect the Minister from poorly planned and potentially embarrassing tweets by industry Canada staff, or does it protect the Industry Canada handle from displaying a milligram of humanity from a real live person, instead of a multi-headed bureaucratic hydra? The Honourable James Moore is one #YOLO hashtag away from redeeming the whole timid and exasperatingly Canadian situation.