Should more Politicians Blog or Tweet?
There are a growing number of very good bloggers and tweeters in Parliament, see Blogminster and Tweetminster, but in general we still find, in any Parliament actually, quite a small group of digital evangelists or people who regularly use and understand the Internet. Its good to see that Pictfor attracts more than it’s fair share of above average digitally literate MPs and Lords. But should more politicians blog and tweet? There is still plenty of debate about this; is it really helpful to politicians? There is of course a clash of values on this issue, between those who think that using social media is intrinsically a good and useful thing vs those who think that social media is a big risk(‘sharing’ is over rated). It can get a bit confusing too, who should we listen to? The police have good cause, at times, to tell us that Facebook is not a good place to be but on the other hand after ‘the riots’ last summer they used it successfully to win public support and catch criminals. There are others who want to make better use of the internet for collecting useful data about citizens and that makes us all stop and think again about our privacy, is it just ‘spying’. Privacy on the internet is an important issue. Take a look at this article about the head of MI6 being compromised in Facebook by his wife. Of course there are many similar stories and we love to hear them.
Mistakes like this one make using social media look as hard as trick cycling, unless you have highly developed analogue social skills to start with and these are combined with a detailed knowledge of the technical pitfalls of using the Internet and all the life experience of a daily mail reporter. It doesn’t really need to be like that though or does it?
What you share and how much personal information you give up is a concern and we all need to be a little bit more aware of what we are doing on the internet and its not just social media, even paying for holiday requires parting with personal information; but is that a new thing? Think about what we give to the NHS or our bank. Take a look at this chart which shows that people have become much more concerned about their digital privacy recently.
Surely it is, at least, worth getting in on the social media discussion even if it is only to keep up with your kids or to keep in touch with family who have migrated from the UK to Australia? You can’t really get involved in a conversation about the pitfalls of using different social media unless you try them out. Don’t be put off. Find out for yourself by subscribing to a social media account and writing something online.
You may need a little help. Start by reading “Why you should NOT use social media”: it becomes evident why you should, if you know what I mean? It can be quite useful to think about some basic rules or guidelines, like those for using Twitter:
You can search in Google or Youtube for many more ‘how to’ tips but its also a good idea to think about some bigger and less-technical (functional) questions too. Here is bit more on that and how to blog, courtesy of a legal blogger, Francis FitzGibbon QC who gave evidence to the Leveson Enquiry earlier this year and answered a question about social media and ethics.
This is a huge question and probably calls for the skills of a social psychologist and a philosopher for a really informative answer, but these are my views: there is no reason to consider that the ‘blogosphere’ is or should be an ethics-free zone. The term ‘blogosphere’, and the phenomenon it describes, has generated a mystique that it does not merit. It is a part of human life and therefore demands normal standards of behaviour, and has them (at least in the small part of it that I am familiar with). Its distinctive property is the ability for large numbers of people to communicate simultaneously and instantaneously. There is no good reason to abandon the rules that govern normal civilised human behaviour when communicating on-line, including obeying the law. No one could sensibly claim that participation in the ‘blogosphere’ relieves us of all the moral and ethical obligations which we apply in the rest of our lives.
In his evidence he mentioned Tim O’Reilly’s ‘Blogger’s Code of Conduct’; you can’t get a better reference than this one.
1. Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog.
2. Label your tolerance level for abusive comments.
3. Consider eliminating anonymous comments.
4. Don’t feed the trolls (ie do not respond in public to people who post
inflammatory or inappropriate messages)
5. Take the conversation offline, and talk directly, or find an intermediary who can
6. If you know someone who is behaving badly, tell them so.
7. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say in person.
Fitzgibbon and O’Reilly say so much more about blogging than I could …. what you think?