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Baird seeks Google help on unleashing Canadian diplomats on social media

OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is encouraging Canadian diplomats to experiment with social media to promote democratic freedom and trade across the globe.

Baird is to announce the initiative today in northern California at the Silicon Valley headquarters of Internet search giant Google, where he's seeking advice on how to better use social media tools to advance Canadian foreign policy.

Government officials say Baird will be encouraging diplomats to take risks on social media to reach "civic actors" who can bring about political change in their countries.

The new plan could represent a significant loosening of the communications leash that the Harper government has placed on foreign diplomats as part of its tight, centralized communications strategy.

Officials say the government has already launched initiatives in missions in Tunisia, Ukraine and Egypt, but wants to expand.

The initiative builds on an earlier democracy-building partnership with the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto that helps ordinary Iranians share information over the Internet that their government deems off limits.

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