In an apparent attempt to keep pace with Kim Jong-un, a Canadian federal agency has blocked government employees from accessing a paywalled news site that reports on the government’s inner workings. According to e-mails obtained in an access to information request by Blacklock’s Reporter, Shared Services Canada has put in place a government-wide blackout on access to the Blacklock’s website without explanation.
James Franco and Seth Rogen were not available for comment.
Blacklock’s focuses its investigations on the nuts and bolts of government. It covers bills, committees, public accounts and the Federal Court system. In other words, the most meaningful and consequential things in the daily work life of a government employee.
Censorship of this sort has increasingly been used by Western governments as a means of suppressing information obtained from whistleblowers. In August 2014, for example, the US military blocked The Intercept, an investigative news organization with a focus on government transparency. The Intercept‘s masthead includes Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, two of the jouralists who first reported on the NSA’s unwarranted mass surveilance of US and foreign citizens. In 2010, the US federal government similarly blocked its employees from accessing the website of whistleblower advocacy group Wikileaks.
But the Blacklock’s blackout is a new frontier for the Canadian bureaucracy. Blacklock’s is not a source of seditious rhetoric or classified document data-dumps. Its most recent scoop involved a $1.25 million government contract with phony news service News Canada, which allowed Ottawa to plant press releases disguised as wire service stories. Embarassing for government, but hardly the stuff of Homeland. Blacklock’s is a small, wonky, independent reporting outfit.
Most annoying about Shared Services Canada’s decision is how lacklustre it is in the way of evil genius. The Russian government endeavours to silence Alexei Navalny because his reportings about bureaucratic corruption are routinely embarassing to the Kremlin. The US military endeavours to keep its staff in the dark about Glenn Greenwald’s reporting because his investigations call into question the moral justifications for activities carried out by US military and intelligence organizations.
But reporting on government bills? Reporting on court proceedings? Reporting on government revenues? Preventing bureaucrats from reading about the work they do and the activities within related public organizations? Well, it’s just lame.
This is, simply put, the most Canadian thing ever. We can’t even do evil right.
“It’s astonishing to see Canada join the short list of countries that forbid public employees from accessing internet news sites,” bemoans Blacklock’s publisher Holly Doan in her site’s story on the blackout. “This is not only Orwellian, it appears to breach the government’s own guidelines on workplace internet use.”
Indeed, it is astonishing. It is terrible. It is an unnecessary overreach by a federal agency with questionable motive. But, if Canada is going to try its hand at evil, can we at least raise our game to Max Zorin levels?
Follow the author on Twitter @sdbcraig.