Tweeting and blogging is not everyone’s cup of tea. I find it a good way to keep people informed about my role as a Cornwall Councillor. I use both to explain decisions made at Cornwall Council. Thus giving the public a better understanding on how the council works, and the role undertaken by a Cornwall Councillor. The use of Twitter is allowed in Courts, Parliament, and many news and TV programs. It is now more common to hear a presenter at the end of their program to say ‘follow me’ or use a ‘hashtag’ for updates and stories.
The council and its leadership make it known to anyone listening that the council is open and transparent. In many areas it is, and officers really push the social media agenda to the next level. However, many Councillors see social media, especially twitter, as the equivalent of people being told the world is not flat.
Today, at Cornwall Council’s Cabinet, the Leader of the said council, and with no legal explanation, banned the use of Twitter and ‘blogging’ during the Cabinet meeting. I asked the legal officer (outside of the room) on the legalities of this action because I do not believe it has any legal grounding. I got no defined answer to my question, and there was no way of raising this concern in the meeting because I have no automatic right to speak at a Cabinet meeting.
excuse ruling for this Stalinist action is some tweets were un-constructive (see official excuse here). This statement from the council opens up further questions as who are the ‘censor police’, and what is acceptable, or not. Councillors are covered by the Code of Conduct rules so any inappropriate behaviour is covered there. Granted, as few tweets from all the tweeting councillors are said with a little bit of humour, this I believe gives any discussion a more personal feeling.
A new media policy, which is meant to make the council more open, was in fact used to make it less open in the very first meeting after the policy was introduced. I believe in one action, Cornwall Council via its Leader, has put the council’s social media reputation back by a year. There are already concerns within the media and broadcasting world that this new policy would not look out-of-place in North Korea. Today’s actions have added to this concern.
Will this policy be used again if the leadership hears something against the corporate view. Will the censor police be mobilized to shut-down any dissenting voice? Hardly open and transparent is it. Various platforms of social media talked about the stupid decision made today. Jokes and comments were made about this whole episode, none of them good.
I feel so strongly about today’s ill-thought out action and unwarranted ban, I have ‘un-followed’ Cornwall Council’s official Twitter account and I urge you all to do the very same until reassurances will be given this Stalinist, and backward thinking action will never happen again.