UPDATE: Canadian Transporation Agency agrees to cease its censorship of Gabor Lukacs

Posted on Sep 14, 2017 in Justice Update, Latest Updates, News Releases

On behalf of air passenger rights advocate Dr. Gabor Lukacs, the Justice Centre sent a warning letter to the Canadian Transportation Agency on September 13, 2017, requesting that the Agency cease its unconstitutional censorship and change its Use of Social Media policy to properly respect Charter-protected freedom of expression.

The Justice Centre’s letter explains that the CTA’s censorship of Dr. Lukacs is unlawful, as the CTA is a government body and is required to respect freedom of expression, guaranteed under section 2(b) of the Charter. CTA’s Use of Social Media policy violates section 2(b) of the Charter by prohibiting, for example, comments that include “serious … accusations”, that are “offensive”, “irrelevant” or that do not “add to the normal flow of the discussion.”  Further the Justice Centre warns that “[s]hould CTA choose rather to continue to violate Dr. Lukacs’ constitutional freedom, we will have no alternative but to pursue further steps to defend our client’s rights.”

On September 22, 2017, CTA’s Senior General Counsel responded to the Justice Centre’s letter, indicating that CTA was reviewing its policy and had not removed any posts since August 1.

However, when Dr. Lukacs posted on the CTA Facebook page, his post was immediately “hidden” so as not to be visible to others on the CTA Facebook.

On September 28, 2017, the Justice Centre emailed CTA, warning CTA that should CTA continue to violate Dr. Lukacs’ constitutional freedom, it would have no alternative but to pursue further steps to defend Dr. Lukacs’ rights:

Dear Ms. Barker, 

We have received your letter dated September 22, 2017, along with the letter of Scott Streiner to BCCLA dated September 15, 2017.

I have called and left voicemails with yourself and with Ms. Green. 

Without addressing each point in the letters, I raise two points to address with you: 

  1. You have indicated that CTA is reviewing its Use of Social Media Policy.  Is this policy review occurring within a specific and immediate timeline, and if so, please indicate that timeline? 
  2. CTA continues to censor Facebook posts, including two posts of Dr. Lukacs on September 22, 2017.  Will CTA cease its continued censorship of Dr. Lukacs?

Your immediate responses to these questions are requested.  

As stated in our September 13, 2017 letter, should CTA choose to continue to violate Dr. Lukacs’ constitutional freedom, we will have no alternative but to pursue further steps to defend our client’s rights.    

Sincerely,

On October 2, 2017, CTA responded that the Agency was “not taking any action to block or delete posts of Dr. Lukacs.”

Hello Mr. Moore.

As Ms. Barker is away from the office, I am responding to your email to her dated September 29th wherein you pose two questions.

With respect to the Use of Social Media Policy, the Agency is looking at a number of factors and does not currently have a definitive timeline for the completion of the review.

With respect to your second question, the Agency is not taking any action to block or delete posts of Dr. Lukacs.

I note that you have left me a voicemail message.  Should you wish to speak with me perhaps we could set a time for tomorrow so that I can ensure that I am in my office.

Kind regards,

CTA has now ceased hiding or removing Dr. Lukacs’ posts.

The Justice Centre is pleased that CTA has ceased its unconstitutional censorship of Dr. Lukacs.  However, the Justice Centre continues to monitor the situation to ensure that CTA does not violate individuals’ freedom of expression in the future.

Case Background

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.

 

 


CALGARY: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF.ca) has sent a warning letter to the Canadian Transportation Agency (“CTA”) which blocked and removed posts of an air passenger rights advocate from its public Facebook page.  In its letter, the Justice Centre requests that the Agency cease its unconstitutional censorship and change its Use of Social Media policy to properly respect Charter-protected freedom of expression.

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.

In its letter, the Justice Centre explains that the CTA’s censorship of Dr. Lukacs is unlawful, as the CTA is a government body and is required to respect freedom of expression, guaranteed under section 2(b) of the Charter. CTA’s Use of Social Media policy violates section 2(b) of the Charter by prohibiting, for example, comments that include “serious … accusations”, that are “offensive”, “irrelevant” or that do not “add to the normal flow of the discussion.”  Further the Justice Centre warns that “Should CTA choose rather to continue to violate Dr. Lukacs’ constitutional freedom, we will have no alternative but to pursue further steps to defend our client’s rights.”

“CTA has created a public Facebook page and invited the public to express their opinions and perspectives there,” explained Justice Centre president John Carpay.  “Clearly, the CTA Facebook page is a proper forum for public expression regarding the CTA, and expression there is protected under section 2(b) of the Charter,” continued Carpay.