Councillor calls for official city policy against cyberbullying
Coun. Laura Dudas subjected to 'torrent of abuse' after colleague's tweet
An Ottawa city councillor is asking the city's integrity commissioner and city clerk to look at creating an official social media policy aimed at reducing online abuse and "vitriol" directed toward city officials — including attacks launched by her own council colleagues.
Innes ward Coun. Laura Dudas wants to know whether the city has the power to investigate cyberbullying incidents directed at councillors and staff. She's asking city staff to study existing policies to see if they go far enough, including comparing them to those in other jurisdictions, and to explore the possibility of punitive measures.
What kind of example are we setting as city leadership?- Coun. Laura Dudas
At Wednesday's city council meeting, Dudas said she had been the target of online abuse triggered in part by a tweet from Coun. Shawn Menard.
"What kind of example are we setting as city leadership?" Dudas asked. "With every angry tweet we send out we're hurting Ottawa's reputation to tourists, investors and also in the eyes of our own residents."
In a tweet last week, Menard dared Mayor Jim Watson to run in the next election, and called out council colleagues perceived to be members of the mayor's trusted inner circle, using the hashtag #WatsonClub.
I dare Jim Watson to run next election. He would lose. I just wonder when some Councillor’s realize he is a sinking ship and their jobs are also at risk. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WatsonClub?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WatsonClub</a>—@ShawnMenard1
Dudas, who is also a deputy mayor, said the hashtag has since appeared in tweets calling her a "Watson robot" and "Lapdog Laura."
Dudas said she's calling all councillors to "rise above this," while acknowledging "few, if any" are wholly innocent when it comes to harsh online postings.
Dudas said she'd like the city to consider social media guidelines similar to those in Toronto, which are based on that council's code of conduct.
After the meeting, Menard told reporters he was surprised by Dudas's motion and wished that she had approached him directly, but said he will continue tweeting.
Watson said Menard apologized to him for the tweet after Wednesday's council meeting.
I also understand that I was a bit harsh in my ‘tweet’ about Mayor Watson’s electoral chances and the effect on other Councillors, meanwhile a Councillor was yelling across the table at another today, with lots of examples of negativity prior to that.—@ShawnMenard1