Earlier this week, Ontario Ombudsman André Marin released his report into the use of a secret regulation that gave police what he called “extravagant” and “likely illegal” powers to crack down on peaceful people protesting last summer’s G20 summit in Toronto or to arrest uninvolved, simply curious citizens caught in the vicinity of the security fence around the summit location.
So, you say: yet another official report that repeats the old refrain “cops go overboard, violate civil liberties”. La-dee-dah, big whoop, what else is new? Either you’re a law and order fan – so these reports do not impress you. Or you are a civil libertarian, and you say you already suspected this all along. Nothing new, right?
What many people have overlooked is contained in Marin’s brief remarks about the essential contribution of social media in writing the report:
Our report is full of stories from people who encountered this treatment, as well as photos that capture the unforgettable scenes of those two days. For the first time, we used social media in our investigation to ask members of the public to come forward, and to track events as they happened. People responded in droves with their stories, their photos and their videos, including some that have never been made public before today. To my knowledge, this is the first time that any ombudsman investigation has used social media, and I can attest that it has been a very useful tool. I also want to thank all those who came to us with information.
The social media genie is truly out of the bottle.