Twitter Gets Dragged Into U.K. Government Slap-Fight - InformationWeek
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8/3/2009
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Mitch Wagner
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Twitter Gets Dragged Into U.K. Government Slap-Fight

Once again, we look to Great Britain for a lesson on the proper use of social media in government. In this case, two city council members in Swansea, Wales, are coming under fire for Twittering during council meetings, when they should have been paying attention to the people's business. The whole thing looks like a big name-calling slap-fight involving accusations of advocating forced sterilization, eugenics, and Nazi philosophy.

Once again, we look to Great Britain for a lesson on the proper use of social media in government. In this case, two city council members in Swansea, Wales, are coming under fire for Twittering during council meetings, when they should have been paying attention to the people's business. The whole thing looks like a big name-calling slap-fight involving accusations of advocating forced sterilization, eugenics, and Nazi philosophy.Apparently, council members in Swansea are accusing each other of advocating required sterilization for parents of children in government care. One of the councilors says she wasn't talking about sterilization, just mandatory contraception. And she wasn't really advocating those measures, just, y'know, mentioning them, conversationally.

These comments (or, should I say, alleged comments) have been a source of merriment in Swansea, causing much hand-wringing, storming out of council chambers, and expressions of outrage. Elected officials on both sides of the Atlantic really enjoy that kind of thing.

Later, a couple of council members got their knickers in a twist over other councilors Twittering during a meeting.

After the meeting, Labour Councillor Ceinwen Thomas said she believed the micro blogging "showed contempt" for the council.

"At the commencement of the meeting we were told to switch our mobile phones off," she said.

"I could only see one councillor doing it [posting on Twitter] but apparently there were two.

"I thought it showed disrespect for the office they represent."

Swansea councilors are also worked up because one of the members called another one a dirty word on Twitter. Follow the preceding link to find out what the word was-be warned that, while it is a dirty word, it actually isn't very dirty, at least not here in the U.S.

U.S. lawmakers got into a similar tizzy soon after President Obama took office, when Republicans Twittered during a Congressional address by the new President.

Should elected officials post to Twitter, or use the Internet in any way, during public meetings? On the one hand, you could argue that they should be paying attention to the public business. On the other hand, public meetings run long, not every minute requires everyone's attention, and posting to Twitter or other Internet forums is arguably a way to keep in touch with constituents.

Personally, I see this as a non-issue, suitable only for entertainment value. I'm not British, but here in the U.S., I'd like it if our politicians fixed the economy. They can Twitter all they want while doing it. What do you think?

There's a big buzz surrounding Government 2.0 -- the revolution that's bringing the principles and value of the Web as a platform to the business of governing. Attend Gov 2.0 Expo Showcase and hear innovators show how this is really happening. At the Washington Convention Center, Sept. 8. Find out more and register.

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