Govt 2.0 threatened by filter comments

Govt 2.0 threatened by filter comments

Summary: Government 2.0 is in danger of being bogged down by public servants having to moderate "passionate" comments from the public railing against the government's planned mandatory internet filter, according to Govt 2.0 taskforce members.

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Government 2.0 is in danger of being bogged down by public servants having to moderate "passionate" comments from the public railing against the government's planned mandatory internet filter, according to Govt 2.0 taskforce members.

As part of the Govt 2.0 initiative, the Australian Public Service (APS) has been encouraged to communicate via blogs and social media. The Department of Finance and Deregulation and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship have both released social media policies for department employees.

At the CeBIT e-government forum held in Sydney today, Mia Garlick, assistant secretary for the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE), said her department was one of the first government departments to put up a blog, and said that while the comments received were "passionate", they were rarely on-topic.

"The majority of people who posted comments on that blog discussed the government's internet filtering policy," she said. "A large number of people also told us our blog was terrible and didn't look like a blog, which was great feedback, but [only] a very small proportion of people actually responded to the topics that we talked about."

Garlick said government agencies needed to limit the amount of time devoted to blog maintenance.

"We're not a moderation company, we're not a blog hosting company, we're not YouTube — that can have infrastructure to host user-generated content," she said, noting the blog comments were a drain on DBCDE resources. "We were constantly moderating that because there was such a passionate response and so that took a lot of resources," she said.

Glenn Archer, chief information officer for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) and fellow Govt 2.0 taskforce member, said that the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) didn't check the comments from the public before they were put up.

"The comments made are post-moderated, meaning they appear online automatically unless they get captured by the spam filter and if necessary, they can be edited or pulled down at a later time," he said. "We found this a better way to encourage actual conversation rather than have all comments vetted."

Archer said the challenge came from encouraging hesitant public servants, who came from a culture where public servants were not allowed to speak out at all, to the online commenting environment.

"As a public servant it's not a natural act to be out there blogging with citizens, we have to learn how to do that."

Archer said public servants have to be aware of what "role" they are occupying when commenting online, whether it is in an official capacity, or just as an individual citizen. He noted, however, that higher-level APS employees did not have that luxury.

"I'm not just a citizen, I have to be conscious of what I say will be reported. The complex thing is trying to explain to public servants that in embracing this opportunity they have to understand what their role is."

In his pre-recorded opening address to the forum, Federal Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner reaffirmed that the government's commitment to the majority of the recommendations from the Government 2.0 report. One of the recommendations, he said, was that the government should make a formal statement of commitment to openness and that he will make that statement in the next few weeks.

Tanner said he was "particularly delighted" that this year's budget papers were able to be released online under creative commons licence for the very first time "apart from a few small exceptions".

Topics: Censorship, Government, Government AU

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Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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9 comments
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  • Mia Garlick's comments show how far the government has to come, she seems to be blaming the public for wanting to engage with the government of the day and the problems it caused them.

    The issue was the government was trying to control the terms of the engagement, at a time when the government was pushing forward with what history will show was one of the silliest government policies of all time. Rather than engage around the most pressing issues they flirted with others then put forward the topic of internet censorship, ran it for a short time then closed the "blog".

    Why on earth DBCDE thought each topic needed to be dealt with one at a time, the problem for the government is they can't control the engagement the same way they can with regular journalists. The sooner they realise they are not in a position to dictate the timing of public discussion the better and the better the engagements will be.

    The way the DBCDE blog was run was extremely disappointing and was evidently conducted with a fear of the result.
    Roo-c9614
  • Mia "said that while the comments received were "passionate", they were rarely on-topic."

    Because it's the only topic. So long as this one policy remains on the table, NOTHING else the government does in IT will ever be relevant.
    anonymous
  • I am guessing by this it shows how far the government has to come with dealing with the internet and shows in some part how they could get the idea of a filter being a tolerable part of the open and free communication that is the greater internet and for the most part good. Internet 2.0 is something that I think the QLD government is learning about the hard way with the payroll in the level of activity by Health employees in the payroll problems. We have seen them be a lot more transparent than they may have liked because the doctor, nurses and other allied health workers affected were not going to shut up. I guess that for departments to deal with the ongoing communication that silly ministers create from "fantastic" ideas is something they are going to have to deal with or stop telling their minister life is wonderful when in fact it is a really crap idea. Departments can expect in this day and age to wear the heat for their minister and no longer can they insulate themselves. It will no doubt change the face of the public service is each day more and more have to engage with the wider community to explain departmental decisions. All I can say is that it cannot come soon enough. And yes Mia if DBCDE is going to run with highly unpopular items in the terms of legislation that really serves no greater good such as the firewall. Whis is supposed to save us just a little then expect to spend a lot of hours communicating or expect to find yourselves deluged in the outfall of your decisions.
    pameacs
  • "The majority of people who posted comments on that blog discussed the government's internet filtering policy," she said. "A large number of people also told us our blog was terrible and didn't look like a blog, which was great feedback, but [only] a very small proportion of people actually responded to the topics that we talked about."

    WHAT A LAUGH! If the Department spoke on subjects that mattered to the electorate then comments would be on-topic. People are angry with KRudd and the Commonwealth Government as a whole. If the Commonwealth opens forums that allow input from the public then it is to be expected that this underperforming Department would receive criticism.

    Her expecting contributors to tow the Department's line is like CityRail opening a forum on their website and demanding that people post words to the effect of "arn't Sydney's trains bloody fantastic!" Get real woman.
    Mel Sommersberg
  • I understand the frustration of having a blog hijacked by what appears to be non-relevant posts. However, if the government wants to engage the public (as they claim)then they have to realise that some issues are so important (to the public) they'll use every means to communicate that to the government.

    So if you're an APS and you're departmental blog is getting swamped with 'off-topic' larger political issues don't complain to the bloggers. Pass the message up to the relevant department that you have angry voters complaining about those policies.

    If the action of one government department adversely affects many, then guess where the problem lies....that one department. In this case, raise your complaints with Conroy. It would be interesting is Conroy treats internal complaints with the same disdain as those coming from voters.
    Scott W-ef9ad
  • So the government will decide who may comment on their brainstorm policies, and the manner in which such comments may be made.

    Which all sounds boringly familiar, somehow.
    gnome-8be8a
  • If they start moderating comments then what will get moderated: anything that is off-topic or anything that makes Senator CONroy choke on his Monte Carlos? Govt. 2.0 could end up like NWAT, an online glory hole for the Labor Party to peddle their propaganda at taxpayer expense.
    Mel Sommersberg
  • Dumb and Dumber.
    As long as the "filter", the most idiotic policy ever presented in Australia, remains on the table, it will continue to be a lead weight tied around Rudd and Conroy's necks, totally obliterating any chance of credibility in IT.
    Yoda7
  • you are so right,this one is aimed at the jugular of transparency,democracy and oversight.if this should come to pass there will be no other issues to be found.what would we know of BER,insulation,myki,tax dept IT horror,undeployable armaments.etc.etc.
    thomas vesely