June 9, 2011

Misappropriating Twitter

By now we are all familiar with the news story regarding a prominent lawmaker, recently married, who admitted to a longstanding pattern of inappropriate sexual exploits via Twitter.

As The Wall Street Journal (9 June 2011) notes, the individual got caught when he “mistakenly sent the photo to tens of thousands of Twitter followers,” rather than as a private message.

As a public servant who is a proponent of social media technology used appropriately, I was very concerned when I saw this in the news (note: all opinions my own).

The government needs social media tools like Twitter. It is an important tool for sharing information and alerts. It is obviously not for “sexting” your followers, especially with a Twitter handle that is apparently coming from someone in the government.

Twitter is an important means of engaging the public in important ways, moving this great country forward on policy issues and a vision that is noble, righteous, and for the betterment of our world. What a shame when these tools are misappropriated!

So while I cannot say “with certitude” what exactly this person was thinking, I am certain that we need social media in government and that there are numerous positive ways for it to be applied. With the caveat that the basis for social media by anyone in government has to be truth, transparency and genuine outreach on issues of importance to the people.

A lot of government people and agencies are doing a good job with Twitter and other social media tools. Let's go back to focusing on the positive work that we can do with them, even as we note with caution how badly they can be misused.


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