Ottawa

Councillor calls for official city policy against cyberbullying

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.

Coun. Laura Dudas subjected to 'torrent of abuse' after colleague's tweet

Innes ward Coun. Laura Dudas said social media 'vitriol' directed at city councillors and other municipal officials is on the rise, and her colleagues are sometimes the ones fanning the flames. (Stu Mills/CBC)

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.

 

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.

Councillor Laura Dudas explains why she's calling for better policies around the online behaviour of elected city staff 9:26

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.

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