OTTAWA – An IP address connected to what is known as the Vikileaks30 Twitter account originates within the House of Commons.
In a bid to determine the origin of the account, which details personal information about Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, The Ottawa Citizen undertook an investigation on Thursday.
An email was sent to the writer of the Vikileaks30 Twitter account, containing a link to a website. The website was monitored by The Citizen and only the author of Vikileaks30 had the address of the website.
About 15 minutes after the email was sent, Vikileaks30 opened the link and visited the page, leaving behind an IP address that belongs to the House of Commons.
The Vikileaks30 Twitter account surged into public prominence in the wake of the tabling of new legislation that would have allowed increased police surveillance of the Internet and those that use it.
A string of tweets posted online portions of alleged details relating to Toews’s divorce proceedings.
The tweets began late Tuesday night and were posted directly in response to the tabling of the government’s “lawful access” bill.
The legislation, named the “Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act”, requires Internet service providers and cellphone companies to install equipment for real-time surveillance and will create new police powers designed to access the surveillance data.
The bill also allows for warrantless access to some subscriber information.
“Vic wants to know about you. Let’s get to know about Vic,” read the first tweet.
“Let’s start with affidavits from Vic’s divorce case.”
What followed were dozens of tweets with alleged quotes from affidavits connected to Toews’ divorce proceedings. The contents of the tweets was unverified.
As the feed continued to put out 140-character length messages throughout the day, the number of followers grew by leaps and bounds.
IP addresses are like fingerprints on the Internet. Each Internet account has its own unique IP address. The Citizen used three separate Internet services that track and identify IP addresses to confirm the location of the address. All the services identified the address as belonging to the Government of Canada and specifically the House of Commons.
Aside from being used to administer the Vikileaks30 Twitter feed, the address has been frequently used to update Wikipedia articles often giving them what appears to be a pro-NDP bias, actions that have attracted the attention of numerous Internet observers in recent months.
While it’s impossible to say who is actually the using the address without a full-scale investigation undertaken by the House of Commons, a trace of the IP address shows it is also used by an employee of the House to post comments on a website for fans of the musician Paul Simon.
When reached by phone, the employee said that while he frequents the Paul Simon website he has nothing to do with the Vikileaks30 Twitter account.
A spokeswoman for the Speaker of the House of Commons said she is not aware of any investigation into whether any House IP addresses are behind the Vikileaks30 account. In order for an official government investigation to begin a complaint would have to be filed by a Member of Parliament.
Calls to Toews’s office about the origin of the IP address and whether he would request an investigation into who has been using it to author the Vikileaks30 Twitter feed have not been returned.
Going after someone personally online is not new, said one social media expert, but the way that it spreads on Twitter is new, especially as an account gains followers and interest.
“They (social media) are tools, but these malicious rumours don’t go anywhere unless people are listening,” said Sidneyeve Matrix, a media studies professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.
Public outrage at the government’s proposed continued to boil over Thursday, as thousands of Canadians made their objections loud and clear on the Twitterverse.
Bill C-30, recently renamed the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, would give police much broader powers to snoop on the online communications of Canadians. It has been met with fierce opposition from Internet privacy and civil rights groups, who say the bill would build a state surveillance system into Canada’s Internet.
Public anger at the Internet snooping bill crystallized on Twitter Thursday, becoming the most tweeted-about subject in Canada.
Another hashtag #TellVicEverything became the focal point for a mass popular protest. Thousands of Canadians flooded Toews with routine, often inane, updates on their lives, which is the kind of information many fear police could access if the Internet surveillance bill passes.
Others used the #TellVicEverything tag to lampoon the surveillance bill, which they fear will give police constant access to personal communications.
“Hey ToewsVic, I lost an email from my work account yesterday,” wrote British Columbia Twitter user Kevin Harding. “Can I get your copy?”
Others pilloried Toews’ over-the-top rhetoric that those who oppose the bill are in bed with child pornographers.
“Hey, everybody! You either #TellVicEverything or you side with the child pornographers,” wrote another Twitter user.