Leader of Cornwall Council Bans Twitter

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.

The 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.






  • Matt

    It would be good if you could link to the twitter account from your post?

  • Jon

    Its very disappointing

  • Gill Martin

    Oh for goodness sake, what is the matter with some people. You will probably all have to be blindfolded and gagged soon at the meetings, and sign a declaration to say you will have no sense of humour and you will dispose of all modern technological items, and you additonally will never speak to a member of the public, this would probably be in line with those councillors that never listen to the public. This is the 21st century, so much for Cornwall Council boasting innovation. I notice on the Cornwall Council website it states “their potential impact on the reputation of the council.” This could give rise to the theory that ‘someone’ may just be a little paranoid. Basically then, the public are only allowed to see and hear selective material from various people at meetings. This really amounts to censorship, which in turn blows their openess and transparency policy apart.

    As for legality, if there is no condition in the code of conduct (having read it I can’t find one) or any other contract any councillor may have signed, then I suggest that there is no legal measures that could be enforced to prevent one from using Twitter during a meeting. The only legal argument to be raised could be the definition of ‘innapropriate behaviour’ from the code of conduct. Would make an interesting case.

    Incidentally, what happens if I follow Cornwall Council’s official Twitter account, and in my opinion find the comments innapropriate!!!

  • Pz01

    I don’t think the problem is Twitter, it’s the fact that within the council there are dissenting voices, having watched a good number of web casts, any member who wishes to question the leadership in any way is censured out, there is no debate.
    The fact that councillors and members can comment in real time on what is being said, much of it dissenting, much off message, is an annoyance that those who believe they are the only ones who should be heard can no longer accept.

    There is only one message and its my message.

  • RG

    at least two ways to look at this…

    Councillors in a meeting (possibly claiming an attendance allowance and expenses) should be focussed on the content and subject of the meeting – if one is tweeting to the public (not even necessarily about the meeting) then you are not providing the service to the community that you are “contracted” to via your standing for the elections.

    Secondly – you are a councillor, elected by the public, therefore the opportunity that twitter presents to share meeting content and to obtain an instantaneous public opinion may be an excecllent way to inform the discussions and decisions that are put forward – it may even avoid some such PR disasters as this “twitter banned” item.

    At the recent Partner to Succeed Collaborate Cornwall #P2SCC event in Newquay’s Lighthouse Cinema there was a live twitter feed in the foyer showing tweets from inside and outside the venue which provided excellent interactivity – might it be possible to introduce a court recorder style “Official Tweetist” representing each side of the debate and a presentation screen where those within the meeting can see what is being said.

    Let’s not ban it – let’s use it to create a more fluid democracy @RGeake

  • Jayne Ninnes

    I work full time in a very busy job as well as working as a volunteer on several committees and help run a Food Bank in Hayle and a member of the Town Council . This leaves me little time to keep up to date with Cornwall Council . I find your Twitter and Blog very helpful in keping up to date with Cabinet and their debates about things which will have a huge influence on my every day life. I feel it is very wrong to reduce my information about my council. Tweets disseminate issues quickly and to the point and promote genuine debate – perhaps what I see as benefits are consider the problem by others !

  • Gill Martin

    If you had an ‘Official Tweetist’ though, would they still not be dictated to by the leader of the council as to what they could and could not ‘Tweet’. It would mean the public could not receive the various view points seen from different perspectives from a variety of councillors. It could end up biased.

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