Red Card for Twitter Use

I’m particularly interested in how political campaign teams are using social media to extend the reach of campaign messages, so I’ve been watching the US primaries with interest. From this side of the pond, the level of adoption by most campaign teams appears quite high and there is clear evidence of a range of ‘blogger outreach’ programmes to support on and offline activities.

It’s not surprising then, that with increased use of online tools to recruit, manage and leverage communities, that there is also a higher degree of focus on what is being said and by whom.

Friday brought news of Soren Dayton, a McCain (remember him?) staffer that has been suspended for tweeting the existence of a video mashup on you tube: Is Obama Wright

I’m not sure what the conditions of Soren’s employment were, but his twitter profile left little in the way of speculation to who he was and who he worked for. Obviously enough people were following Dayton to break the news about his linking to the video, and the McCain campaign felt that this provided sufficient grounds to ‘suspend’ him.

Interestingly, social networking tools are also being used to spearhead the campaign to defend Soren. Joshua Trevino from the Pacific Research Institute was quick to respond with a ‘Save Soren’ campaign on Facebook.

It would be easy to dismiss this as another case of an employee not understanding the boundaries between ‘public’ and ‘private’ communications. Unfortunately, as Soren is an experienced political campaigner and was using his profile to promote the McCain campaign, he should have understood that his tweets could be perceived as tacit endorsement by the McCain campaign for the video. So, as far as I can tell, Soren either:

(a) made an honest mistake

(b) is part of a very clever political machine working to keep the Obama/Wright issue in the news

(c) wasn’t told, or didn’t understand, what he should and shouldn’t say.

I’m going to go with option (c).  

Soren either didn’t know what he should or shouldn’t say, or didn’t understand the guidance he was given (hoping, of course, he was given some). Without a clear steer on what campaign staff should and shouldn’t say online, there are bound to be more mistakes like this.

Given recent discussions in the UK about links and libel, civil servants blogging and the implications this has, I wonder how many employees and employers have considered this in the same way for twitter?

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