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Victorian government launches inquiry into the use of social media in the house to reflect on the office of Speaker, by parliamentarians and public

Reading the eGovernment Resource Centre’s newsletter this morning, the Victorian government has launched an inquiry into the use of social media to reflect on the office of the Speaker, looking at use while parliament is sitting by both parliamentarians and the public galleries.

The Legislative Assembly Standing Orders Committee is considering:

(1) Should any restrictions, or guidelines, apply to members’ use of hand-held electronic devices in the Chamber and committees, including accessing social media to comment on the proceedings?

(2) Should any restrictions, or guidelines, apply to the public and media using social media from the galleries to comment on proceedings or committee hearings?

(3) Do the Assembly’s procedures and rules need modernising to reflect the opportunities and challenges provided by social media?

(4) Is the current rule, preventing any reflections on the Office of Speaker, other than in a formal motion, still appropriate? If so, should the rule still apply to reflections made outside the House and to reflections made on social media?

The inquiry raised some interesting questions for me. Firstly whether it is actually practical or worthwhile to attempt to prevent comments regarding a particular individual or office, when they can be made worldwide, by anyone at any time.

Also whether any jurisdiction can place any kind of global gag in place. Certainly the parliament may be able to require anyone physically present in the chamber at the time to not use social media. However if the proceeds are broadcast, or if anyone in the chamber communicates with anyone outside the chamber, preventing comments placed in social media by those not in the room and potentially not in the same country is impossible.

It will be intriguing to watch this inquiry unfold and how its outcomes will influence other jurisdictions and, potentially, how technology will develop to ‘route around the damage’, to bypass any laws or procedures put in place to limit the spread of information.

If you wish to contribute to the inquiry, for details visit the Parliament of Victoria’s website.

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