I work for an interesting department

I know this because every time I tweet about something interesting, I have to add another two tweets to cover my ass for possible conflicts of interest.

Measure twice, Tweet once

As an Industry Canada employee, it’s a pretty obvious move to follow Minister Tony Clement. So when he tweets that he’ll be meeting Stephen Toope, president of my alma mater UBC, I fire off a post linking to a column on innovation that Toope co-wrote, which receives the following response:

Now, ministers are free to agree with whatever they want, and anyone can of course send a letter to the minister with their opinions, but as a public servant in the minister’s department, I think it’s wise to exercise some discretion. I was hired because, presumably, Industry Canada thinks I have something to offer: the last thing I want is pass on crappy ideas to influential people with my reputation on the line. I felt that Toope’s column is fairly general, there wasn’t much time to relay the information, and I posted it explicitly as someone else’s opinion. What I’m not in the business of doing is tweeting willy-nilly about Potash, TMX, or about Internet usage-based billing.

I also believe in basic accountability: I can always Direct Message or e-mail the Minister directly to send that column, but that would truly be going through the back door. If I’m going to take a shortcut, at the very least, everyone else should know about it.

The question of how government ministers should use Twitter is a (kind of) hot issue right now. Tweets may be short, but it doesn’t hurt to put some thought into what they mean.