On January 8th, 2013 the Twitterverse in Hamilton, Ontario borrowed a popular internet meme from a campaign against Bill C-30, a federal Canadian internet surveillance policy. The formula for the meme is#Tell[X]Everything. Exploration of citizens’ use of this meme reveals much about the satire and campaign scaffolding skills at play in online political participation in Canada.
The story of #Tell[X]Everything began in February 2012 when the government of Canada introduced Bill C-30, originally named The Lawful Access Act. At the time of the first reading of Bill C-30 it was intended to allow police access to information about internet users without obtaining warrants.
Following the introduction of Bill C-30, a figure emerged on Twitter under the moniker of @VikiLeaks30. The moniker was clearly a spoof on WikiLeaks and @VikiLeaks30 started releasing details about the personal life of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, the Minister responsible for Bill C-30. The leaking of the minister’s personal life details was a direct protest against the increased digital surveillance of Canadians which were to be made possible by Bill C-30. The @VikiLeaks30 account was eventually linked to anopposition party staff member but the general Canadian public took up the ethos of the @VikiLeaks30 tweeter through the #TellVicEverything hashtag. Everyday Canadians began to tell Minister Vic Toews mundane details about their lives through #TellVicEverything and they copied the Minister’s Twitter account en masse.
The #Tell[X]Everything tactic was borrowed and remixed just this week in the City of Hamilton, Ontario. Hamilton is known for steel production and has suffered during the economic downturn. Against the backdrop of $150 million (or more) municipal infrastructure debt, citizens in Hamilton were outraged that external, high-priced consultants were hired to engage the city’s residents on municipal service delivery in 2013 through a the ourvoice.hamilton.ca website and other consultation activities. The hired consultants were perceived to lack social media savvy and basic knowledge of the city when they launched the consultation.
A creative twitter user @michaelpett posted “Anyone remember #TellVicEverything? Let’s try strategy with @OurHamilton. Maybe #TellOHEverything? cc @JoeyColeman @joey_mleczko #HamOnt”
Following @michaelpett ‘s post the hashtag became incredibly active and Hamiltonians tweeted facts about their hometown to enlighten the consultants about their city. As reported in The Spec and social mediaoffensive content and perhaps more broadly the critiques raised by the #TellOHEverything conversation prompted the city to have the consultants take down the website.
Councillor Sam Merulla in Hamilton was quoted by the CBC as stating that the public engagement firm “lost this entire city at hello…”
I will continue to consider the implications of this scaffolded, satirical critique in the upcoming weeks. The #Tell[X]Everything strategy demonstrates that transparency and openness cannot be enacted by government alone.
Addendum: The CBC Hamilton posted an 80 page PDF report of the Twitter conversation related to #TellOHEverything on Jan. 21, 2013 located here:http://www.cbc.ca/hamilton/news/story/2013/01/20/hamilton-dissecting-the…