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Tangle of rules, procedures strangles federal government tweets

12-step protocol for each tweet

Pity the poor government tweet, nearly strangled in its cradle before limping into the Twitterverse.

Newly disclosed documents from Industry Canada show how teams of bureaucrats often work for weeks to sanitize each lowly tweet, in a medium that's supposed to thrive on spontaneity and informality.

Most 140-character tweets issued by the department are planned weeks in advance; edited by dozens of public servants; reviewed and revised by the minister's staff; and sanitized through a 12-step protocol, the documents indicate.

Insiders and experts say the result is about as far from the spirit of Twitter as you can get, and from a department that's supposed to be on the leading edge of new communications technologies.

The documents, obtained through the Access to Information Act, show such a high level of control that arrangements are made days in advance to have other government agencies re-tweet forthcoming Industry Canada tweets, because re-tweets are considered a key measure of success.

In turn, Industry Canada agrees to do the same for tweets from the Business Development Bank of Canada and others.

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