A Twitter account that identifies itself as the official platform of Jason Kenney’s office sparked reaction over the weekend after tweeting a list of NDP staff.
The Unite Alberta Twitter account posted the list on Friday.
Unite Alberta said the intent of the list was multifaceted, including to highlight that it was inappropriate for government staff to tweet partisan content without identifying whom they work for and for tweeting during work hours.
“Think of how it would be received if NDP government staff were calling into talk radio shows as ‘concerned Albertan,'” Unite Alberta told Global News.
The Twitter account noted it was not suggesting government staff were calling radio stations without identifying themselves; the comparison was used as an example as a “parallel with Twitter in a social media era.”
The list started with 138 twitter accounts but was down to 65 by Monday morning.
Communications director for Premier Rachel Notley’s office Cheryl Oates was one of the people on the list.
“Frankly, the whole thing is a bit creepy,” Oates said. “But if the UCP is obsessed with making lists, maybe they could finally do up a list of Kenney’s donors and release it to the public.”
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The tweet with a link to the list generated over 200 comments. Unite Alberta was accused of using it as a scare tactic, some said they were proud to be on the list, while others thanked the account for connecting them with NDP staffers.
Chaldeans Mensah, an associate political science professor at MacEwan University, said Twitter is a public forum where users should be allowed to share ideas, without fear of wrongdoing, unless backed by evidence.
“In the free exchange of ideas afforded by Twitter, focus should be on the strength of one’s ideas and ability to convince others based on substance of one’s arguments,” Mensah said. “The idea of an enemies list is contrary to such free flow ideas.”
However, Mensah said a public servant posting partisan opinions on social media can become problematic because it is contrary to expectations of non-partisanship.
“The stakes are high in this coming election, so I expect the respective camps to make an effort to undermine their opponents with all kinds of dirty tricks, especially in the ‘wild west’ of social media,” Mensah said.
“I think it is incumbent on citizens to stay focused on the respective visions of the political parties as they seek to win their votes in the coming campaign.”
Kenney has not responded to the list.
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