The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) is a government agency which uses social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to “encourage communications between [the public] and the Agency.” The CTA repeatedly stated that it “is committed to an open and transparent dialogue with Canadians and welcomes a variety of perspectives and opinions.” Additionally, CTA has stated:
We believe that only by being open to challenge, debate and a free and honest exchange of ideas can we ensure that we are serving Canadians to the best of our ability.
On its Facebook page, CTA regularly posts public announcements about the Agency, tips on air travel and links to various webpages. Members of the public frequently comment on CTA’s Facebook posts and occasionally CTA replies to those comments. These communications are all public, allowing members of the public to interact with the Agency and with each other.
One would think that this Facebook page for a government agency would be a banner for transparent and accountable government and free speech (particularly in light of CTA’s statements). Unfortunately, CTA’s recent actions have shattered that perception.
Dr. Gabor Lukacs and his Air Passenger Rights network are a group of citizens concerned that airlines frequently act with impunity in violation of air passenger rights and contract law. Lukacs feels that the Agency is not fulfilling its role to hold airlines accountable for improper or unlawful practices.
In May of 2017, Dr. Lukacs published an article “5 Reasons not to Trust the Canadian Transportation Agency”. The article listed five concerns with the CTA: 1) Institutional Bias, 2) Track Record of Lack of Enforcement, 3) Vice-Chair: Former Airline Lobbyist, 4) Manager of Enforcement: On First-Name Basis with Industry, and 5) Chief Dispute Officer: Lawyer Suspended for Misconduct. As he posted comments on the CTA’s Facebook page, Dr. Lukacs would occasionally post a link to the article.
On July 5, 2017, Dr. Lukacs received a private Facebook message from an unnamed individual purporting to be the CTA Social Media Coordinator using the Facebook name of “Cta Otc”. The message told Dr. Lukacs that a number of his comments “directly targeted a number of Agency employees that draw their integrity into question.” It further informed him that these posts violated CTA’s Use of Media policy, and that if they continued, “the Agency will block your future access to comment on our Facebook and Twitter channels.”
On July 19, 2017, Dr. Lukacs received another Facebook message from a person purporting to be the CTA Social Media Coordinator, telling him that his posting of “5 Reasons not to Trust the Canadian Transportation Agency” did not comply with their guidelines and was being removed. The message did not explain what “personal information” or “unproven or inaccurate accusations” were made in the article. The message warned Dr. Lukacs to “stop posting references to the article” or his account would be blocked.
On July 28, 2017, the CTA made the following public post on its Facebook page:
Comments with links to “5 Reasons Not To Trust The Agency” will be deleted as it is deemed to be in breach of our social media policy, as well as Facebook’s Community Guidelines, based on:
• It is repetitive or spam;
• Contains references to personal information;
• Puts forward serious, unproven or inaccurate accusations against individuals or organizations;
• Do not, in our opinion, add to the normal flow of the discussion.
CTA removed comments with links to, or that referred to, the article, and blocked Dr. Lukacs from posting on the CTA’s Facebook page.