TellVicEverything an Internet sensation


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If Public Safety Minister Vic Toews wants information from the Internet, he now has far more than he bargained for.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/02/2012 (4060 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If Public Safety Minister Vic Toews wants information from the Internet, he now has far more than he bargained for.

In the midst of a brewing firestorm over Toews’ proposed online surveillance legislation, thousands of Canadian Twitter users paused Thursday to poke fun at Bill C-30, which Toews introduced to the House of Commons on Tuesday.

The bill, otherwise dubbed the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, would give police access to Internet subscribers’ private information without a warrant, among other increased powers. The ensuing controversy has already seen protests, petitions and, Wednesday, the arrival of a pseudonymous Twitter foe, dumping details of the minister’s divorce file online.

An Ottawa Citizen investigation determined Thursday the IP address linked with the Twitter account originates from within the Commons.

Now, faced with the chance Ottawa could dig a little into Canadians’ private lives, the bill’s opponents decided that they may as well just tell the cabinet minister from Manitoba everything.

No really, everything.

“This milk is two days past its expiration date, but I’m going to risk it,” Winnipegger Matthew Woodbridge announced, punctuating the sentiment with the tag #TellVicEverything.

Winnipeg hockey fan Janice Labossiere also had urgent personal information to share with the minister. “I’m parked a little closer to one line than the other in the parkade today,” she admitted on Twitter. “#TellVicEverything.”

On Thursday afternoon, the man who opened the floodgates watched in wonder as Twitter exploded with Toews-related tweets.

Robert Jensen, a Prince Edward Island man and regular critic of the Harper government, came up with the idea on Thursday morning and urged his followers to spam Toews’ official Twitter account with useless personal trivia.

Jensen later faxed his grocery list to Toews’ Ottawa office; but by then, the Tell Vic Everything movement had become a bona fide sensation. Only eight hours after Jensen’s original Tweet, there were thousands of messages in the Tell Vic Everything pile — and the momentum was still picking up. “I’m killing myself laughing,” Jensen wrote on his account. “Now this is what we call peaceful, democratic protest, Canuck-style.”

Some missives were funny, others deliberately dull. A few were aggressively political but most, pointedly irreverent: One man pledged to copy Toews’ office on all of his outgoing email, “to save time and taxpayers money.”

Needless to say, the common theme was resistance. “As I understand it, law enforcement agencies can’t open my mail, tap my phone, access my phone or bank records or enter my home without a warrant,” said Winnipeg’s Shaun Wheeler, who told Toews (on Twitter) about how he likes to avoid the lines at MLCC outlets. “Why should it be any different for my Internet history?”

Most of all, the movement was affixed with a certain mischevious joy, a spark of unity that, supporters said, made telling Toews everything an exercise in unity. “(I was) happy to see the involvement of Canadians on Twitter,” said Winnipeg’s Eric Reder, who described himself as “grimly angry” with Bill C-30 and the Conservative government’s direction in general.

“Seriously, most entertaining day ever on Twitter.”

In Ottawa, opposition politicians once again pounced on the chance to keep the issue in a national spotlight. “I very much want the minister to have a taste of his own medicine,” said Liberal Charlottetown MP Sean Casey. “To have happen to him what he proposes to do to ordinary Canadians.”

To accomplish that, Casey filed order papers requesting a log of all “websites accessed on the personal departmental desktop computers, laptop computers, mobile phones, tablet computers or other Internet-enabled devices” used by Toews, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and their staffers.

The ministers will take 45 days to respond to the question, he predicted, the maximum time they are allowed. Casey said the Harper government is the “most secretive government in history” and he expects the ministers to withhold the information he requested.

But the Liberals have baggage of their own when it comes to lawful-access legislation — a point Toews has reminded them of each time they’ve raised concerns since the bill was tabled on Tuesday. Before losing power in 2006, the Liberal government of Paul Martin tabled its own online surveillance bill in November 2005, but it died when the election was called shortly after.


— with files from Postmedia News

Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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