Number 10 hands out Twitter exclusives to favoured journalists

UK Prime Minister

A discussion topic in episode 701 of the FIR podcast, published today, looks at a question asked in the Metro newspaper last week: should British politicians take notes from Barack Obama’s campaign team?

The Metro’s excellent report looked at the key role social media played  – especially Twitter – in both of the US president’s election campaigns in 2008 and 2012 in enabling direct engagement with reporters and opinion-makers as well as with voters in communities across the United States (see detailed analysis of 2012 from Pew’s Journalism. org).

The discussion that guest co-host Stephen Waddington and I had in the podcast considered key elements of Obama’s campaign as described in the Metro story by Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon. Her conclusion:

[…] Summing up the lessons of 2008 and 2012, Ms O’Malley Dillon said: ‘If there’s anything to be learned from our campaign, it’s that we made it a priority, we believed in it from the top to the bottom, we ensured the resources were there and we allowed it to help dictate for us in some ways the type of things we were doing based on how people use these forums.

‘We weren’t trying to recreate the wheel, we were trying to be part of the dialogue and I think that’s one of the many ways we were able to be successful.’

Keeping that in mind, Wadds and I broadly concluded in  our discussion that a) yes, British politicians would benefit from studying the role of social media in US election campaigning; and b) there’s little to suggest that they are or have done so – certainly at a central-government level that seems isolated from grassroots ‘social politics’ – even though the next general election in the UK is only two years away at most.

So The Guardian’s report yesterday on the role of Twitter in how Downing Street aims to secure goodwill from journalists by revealing news before its official announcement by ministers had me thinking about what looks like a chasm of a difference in how American politicians see social media channels like Twitter and how UK ones do.

There, it looks more open and inclusive. Here, it seems to be secretive, selective and controlled.

That’s a great pity if it does turn out to be how my cynical view of the political communication landscape appears. The way in which social media channels can galvanize political engagement with and by those who have the final word on who gets elected, as evidenced by the US experience, clearly is firmly understood by government communicators:

[…] “We’re getting to where people are these days,” said Anthony Simon, the head of digital communications in the prime minister’s office.

“Increasing numbers of people are on Twitter – journalists, stakeholders and professional groups – and to be part of that conversation is vital for any government department. It’s democratic because it’s open to anyone and we don’t go on it for the sake of it or over-rely on it – it’s a means to an end.”

I hope that the ‘means to an end’ becomes a great deal more honest- and authentic-looking than the current situation that The Guardian describes.

(The Guardian’s report below is published with their permission via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.)


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Number 10 hands out Twitter exclusives to favoured journalists” was written by Josh Halliday, for The Guardian on Sunday 28th April 2013 21.07 Europe/London

Asked in 2009 why he didn’t use Twitter, David Cameron famously responded “too many twits might make a twat” . Four years later, Number 10 is attempting to move more rapidly into the digital future with a Twitter strategy that includes handing out “Twitter exclusives” to favoured journalists for release before they are officially announced by ministers.

In a tactic reminiscent of the BBC satire The Thick of It, Twitter is also being used to try to quash negative stories before they gain currency in a news cycle where every second counts.

“Every minute that passes the poison is spreading into the system to all sorts of roots and you need to find a way to cauterize that very, very quickly,” said a senior No 10 source.

The Twitter exclusives aim to secure goodwill from journalists who are often under pressure to break news online before rivals, but will irritate those who believe announcements should be made in parliament.

Many of Downing Street’s new media strategies were introduced by Craig Oliver, the prime minister’s communications director, who insisted on moving a Twitter monitor into the No 10 newsroom when he assumed his role in January 2011.

According to colleagues, Oliver likes to describe the social network as similar to fire: a useful tool in the right hands, but massively destructive if it is misused.

The analogy might leave some scratching their heads, but Cameron’s inner circle wants all his MPs to take Twitter seriously – even if the 2015 general election is, in internet time, light years away.

One example of using Twitter to “seal” a negative story came after the Evening Standard mistakenly broke George Osborne’s budget embargo on the social network last month. A mortified journalist promised to tweet a swift apology but Oliver ordered a pre-emptive tweet from the Tory press office account, to ensure the reporter’s promise was met.

Conservative party headquarters brief MPs on good talking points for Twitter, using them to “tweet as a muscular force” about a single topic or news item to hammer home the message. Some 418 MPs have joined the tweeting fray, according to the news wire Tweetminster, up from 176 in 2009.

“Twitter used to be seen as tool for the egocentric and verbally incontinent,” said a senior No 10 source. “But the reality is that it’s an extraordinarily useful way of getting talking points out there.”

Downing Street has not always been so fleet of foot – it took hours to respond to the online mockery prompted by Osborne’s first-class train ticket debacle last October – but Cameron’s inner circle now recognises that the case for a clear Twitter strategy is “unanswerable”.

“We’re getting to where people are these days,” said Anthony Simon, the head of digital communications in the prime minister’s office.

“Increasing numbers of people are on Twitter – journalists, stakeholders and professional groups – and to be part of that conversation is vital for any government department. It’s democratic because it’s open to anyone and we don’t go on it for the sake of it or over-rely on it – it’s a means to an end.”

The most popular tweet sent by the government was Cameron’s tribute to Baroness Thatcher, prompting 3,500 retweets. The most divisive was when No 10 tweeted every single reshuffle appointment last September, which led to a mass unfollowing from less devoted users but praise from politicos.

But the jury is out on whether the rest of Britain is as Twitter-addicted as the Westminster Village. “I think the majority of activity comes from a fairly small group and most MPs have fairly small audiences,” said Alberto Nardelli, the founder of the app Tweetminster, pointing out that 1.2m people follow MPs on the site – about the same size audience combined as Beppe Grillo, the leader of Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement.

“I think we’ve gone beyond a ‘should politicians use Twitter?’ phase. It’s now how will it be used,” he added.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

The ugliness of social media

It’s a concise article in The Guardian but it’s powerful, shining a light on a truly ugly side of human behaviour.

The subject is rape and, as the article’s subtitle so aptly puts it, how social media channels like Facebook "provide outlets for the worst kind of misogyny."

Who likes rape? Loads of people! And they tell the world about it on Facebook. Let’s start with the page, "Riding Your Girlfriend Softly Cause You Don’t Want to Wake Her Up". Sleep rape too un-violent? Try "Throwing Bricks at Sluts", check out the gallery and vote Bang, or Brick. The page called "Don’t You Hate It When You Punch a Slut in the Mouth and They Suck It," has 2,086 likes. If you want stronger stuff, try "Punching Pregnant Women in the Stomach." Too tame? "Abducting, Raping and Violently Murdering Your Friend, as a Joke" has more than 16,600 likes so rape fans needn’t feel alone.

Writer Bidisha also lights up Twitter as another amplifier of the ugly.

[...] Recently, Twitter trended "Reasons to beat your girlfriend", "Worst names for a vagina", and "Birthday present for side chick" (meaning, mistress).

Other than write posts like this to help draw attention to what’s happening, what can anyone do to stop this ugliness? Nothing it seems: Facebook, Twitter and other online services seem oblivious to such behaviours, upholding as so often is the case people’s right to free expression and freedoms of speech as long as that doesn’t infringe those services’ terms and conditions of use.

I find it hard to understand how the kinds of things that Bidisha describes don’t do that.

It’s a dilemma, to be sure. Yet surely someone can apply some common sense to look at some people’s behaviours in social media likely to offend reasonable people wherever they are in whatever culture.

I know it’s not that simple. And I should probably have titled this post "The ugliness of people" as it is about people’s behaviours where social media are just channels.

Whatever, this is so ugly.

PCC seeks to regulate press Twitter feeds

twitterppcThe Guardian’s report on plans by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), the UK’s mainstream print-media regulator, to include tweets made by journalists in its regulatory remit shouldn’t be a surprise to any observer of the contemporary and rapidly-evolving media landscape.

As the Guardian reports, the PCC thinks some tweets by journalists would be considered as part of a newspaper’s editorial content and, therefore, subject to existing regulation covering such content. It wants media companies to differentiate a reporter’s "official" tweets and those that are personal comments, and develop policies to help everyone understand what the rules are when using social channels like Twitter

It’s a good idea if it helps to make clear what is editorial and reporting and what is personal opinion. The best example I know of a media organization setting out such policies is the BBC with its comprehensive and continuously-evolving Editorial Guidelines website, which includes specific guidance for journalists (and others, such as editors and programme producers) on usage of Twitter.

For example, in the section on Social Networking, Microblogs and other Third Party Websites: BBC Use:

[...] You may wish to consider forwarding or "retweeting" a selection of a person’s microblog entries/posts or "tweets". This is very unlikely to be a problem when you are "retweeting" a colleague’s BBC "tweet" or a BBC headline. But in some cases, you will need to consider the risk that "retweeting" of third party content by the BBC may appear to be an endorsement of the original author’s point of view.

It may not be enough to write on your BBC microblog’s biography page that "retweeting" does not signify endorsement, particularly if the views expressed are about politics or a matter of controversial public policy. Instead you should consider adding your own comment to the "tweet" you have selected, making it clear why you are forwarding it and where you are speaking in your own voice and where you are quoting someone else’s.

The BBC also has a specific policy on personal use of social networking and other third party websites including blogs, microblogs and personal web-space. As the Guardian notes in its report, journalists like the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones already maintain multiple accounts in an effort to preserve professional and personal distinctions.

Whatever type of organization you are, media or otherwise, developing clear policies and guidelines about employee use of social tools like Twitter, then communicating them to your employees and helping them understand the rules of the game, make good business sense.

And a good place to get inspired for your organization is to take a look at the BBC’s example.

(The Guardian’s report below is published with their permission via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.)


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “PCC seeks to regulate press Twitter feeds” was written by Dan Sabbagh, for theguardian.com on Friday 6th May 2011 14.14 Europe/London

Reporter and newspaper Twitter feeds are expected to brought under the regulation of the Press Complaints Commission later this year, the first time the body has sought to consolidate social media messages under its remit.

The PCC believes that some postings on Twitter are, in effect part of a “newspaper’s editorial product”, writings that its code of practice would otherwise cover if the same text appeared in print or on a newspaper website.

A change in the code would circumvent a loophole that – in theory – means that there is no form of redress via the PCC if somebody wanted to complain about an alleged inaccuracy in a statement that was tweeted. Last year the PCC found it was unable to rule in a complaint made against tweets published by the Brighton Argus.

Its plan, though, is to distinguish between journalists’ public and private tweets. Any Twitter feed that has the name of the newspaper and is clearly an official feed – such as @telegraphnews or @thesun_bizarre – will almost certainly be regulated.

However, that principle could be further extended to cover a reporter’s “official” work account, whilst leaving personal accounts that discuss conversations over breakfast and weekend exploits as outside its ambit. Some journalists – such as the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones – already maintain multiple accounts in an effort to preserve professional and personal distinctions.

The PCC wants each newspaper to develop a “Twitter policy”, to tell its reporters which accounts are considered part of its editorial product and which are not. But with many newspapers, including the Guardian, republishing tweets on their site, many journalist musings are likely to be drawn in.

An online working group of the PCC has already recommended that the body undertake a “remit extension”, the formal mechanism by which the self-regulatory body takes on a new area of responsibility, after consulting with the newspaper industry as to how Twitter regulation can be implemented. That consultation is due to finish in the summer and the new rules are likely to be in place by the end of the year.

Publication on Twitter is already subject to libel laws and court orders – the internet, of course, does not exist in a legal vacuum. Last week, for example, journalists at the Guardian were reminded that tweets that hinted at the identity of individuals covered by injunctions would be a breach of the injunction itself.

In February the PCC ruled that information posted on Twitter should be considered public and publishable by newspapers after it cleared the Daily Mail and Independent on Sunday of breaching privacy guidelines.

Both newspapers had reported on tweets posted by Sarah Baskerville, a Department for Transport employee, in November last year. Baskerville, who had around 700 Twitter followers at the time, described a course leader as “mental” and posted links to tweets attacking government “spin” and Whitehall waste.

Baskerville complained to the press regulator, arguing that she could have a “reasonable expectation” of privacy and that the reporting was misleading. The Daily Mail and Independent on Sunday argued that the messages were public and could be read by anyone.

The PCC decided in favour of the newspapers, in what is the regulator’s first ruling on the republication of information posted on Twitter.

• To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email editor@mediaguardian.co.uk or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000. If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly “for publication”.

• To get the latest media news to your desktop or mobile, follow MediaGuardian on Twitter and Facebook

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Facebook is for brands – the careful ones

ReadWriteWeb published a detailed post today on research from Razorfish about online consumer behaviours with a strong focus on Twitter and Facebook.

While the overall post makes for interesting reading and is very useful from a fact-finding perspective, what leapt at me from RWW’s page were two charts and a concise paragraph.

First, the two charts:

q29facebook

Just look at what people said was their ‘usual’ behaviour (the bright-red bar). And the highest – purchase a product or service.

Which reflects the top answer to a specific question asking what’s the primary reason to be a friend of a brand on Facebook:

q30facebook

In the case of Facebook fan behaviour, content isn’t king: getting a good deal is.

Then, the paragraph of text:

[…] An even higher percentage of respondents have "friended" a brand on Facebook – a whopping 40%. Considering that Facebook is a social network that started out as a way for college kids to network, this is a statistic that will make companies and organizations take note. If you want brand recognition on the Web, according to these statistics there’s a very good chance that Facebook is a place you want to be.

The bold is my emphasis.

What this text is doing is making a comparison between behaviours in Facebook compared to Twitter.

Even without a comparison, 40% looks a pretty notable metric to me.

A complementary post by MarketingProfs, also published today, gives some sound advice to marketers and how they should behave on Facebook, beginning with a warning worth noting:

[…] A full 44% of people who are fans of at least one company or brand on Facebook also say social networks should be used strictly for interpersonal communication. They don’t believe marketers are welcome. To them, self-identification as a fan is not an invitation; it is an expression of personal taste or style intended to be shared primarily with friends.

So the risk is very high that brands – more correctly, the people behind the brands as brands are purely inanimate devices and not people – will not recognize the innate behavioural differences in personal connecting vs marketing messages.

So here’s some good headline advice to marketers:

  1. Don’t act like "marketers"
  2. Align with fans instead of selling to them
  3. Be quick to listen and slow to speak
  4. When it comes to positive comments, let your fans tell the story for you.
  5. Direct consumers to other channels for marketing messages

All the details are here:

Milestones in Iran

mousavi-facebook

While the mainstream media is proving its worth (and its mettle) in its reporting of fast-moving events in Iran, that parallel universe known as social media is a channel for huge volumes of comment and opinion, the type that is more local and niche and which typically doesn’t get the attention of the mainstream reporters.

More significantly, the people in Iran producing such content are normal folk, people like you and me, not media reporters or journalists.

Anyone with a device that connects to a network of some type – which ranges from PCs to phones – can be a reporter in Iran today.

Mashable had a great post yesterday on the role Facebook is playing in communicating messages from main opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, such as this update in his profile on the social network:

Today you are the media, it is your duty to report and keep the hope alive.

Note Mr Mousavi’s Facebook ID (hover your mouse over the link) – whoever set up the account for him took quick advantage of the new Facebook usernames introduced just last week.

Twitter is playing a big role, too, in enabling people anywhere, inside Iran and out, to voice comment and opinion.

[…] The so-called “Twitter revolution” is also proving itself to be far more than that. As we reported earlier, YouTube has also become a source of raw video from the ground, and Mousavi’s latest long-form statement wasn’t communicated as a release to the press: rather it was posted as a note on the candidate’s Facebook page today.

The Facebook post is a direct response to claims by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, that Ahmadinejad received nearly double the number of votes Mousavi garnered. Written originally in Farsi, it was translated in full by the Neo-Resistance blog.

[…] Whatever the outcome of these dramatic events, it’s clear that a seismic shift is taking place in the way we communicate: genies do not easily return to their bottles.

A seismic shift indeed.

There’s more, though.

Via Mashable – a Google Maps mashup of embassies accepting injured Iranians in Tehran (click the screenshot to go to the live map).

embassiesmaptehran

Mashable says the map, seeded from information in a liveblog on The Huffington Post, is a running list of embassies that are publicly taking in injured Iranians.

Friend Bernie Goldbach asked via Twitter if I was following any Audioboos from people in Iran. Audioboo is an audio blogging service on the iPhone, about which I’ve written quite a bit already.

I haven’t see any so far. Given that it requires an iPhone to record and then upload that recording and, hence, needs a more sophisticated platform than simply using any phone (mobile or otherwise) to make a phone call, I wondered in a Twitter reply whether a service like ipadio might be more readily accessible to people in Iran.

Ipadio is a service that lets you make a phone call to publish an audio on the web. Not seen any from Iran on that service, either, though [but see update, below].

Whatever the outcome of events in Iran, the influence of individuals with access to the means to communicate their views and readily connect with others – as well as the behaviour of channel owners to flex in response to needs in that country – will be shown to have been milestones.

[Update June 22] A comment to this post yesterday from Claire Thompson on behalf of ipadio saying the company is trying to set up a freephone (toll free) phone number in Iran has now succeeded: a phonecast by ipadio CEO Mark Smith includes details of the phone number anyone in Iran can call to record a comment to the web.

Ipadio has supplied this service to enable all Iranians to freely express their views. To access it, dial… [number listed at website] …. and you will be broadcasting live to the internet. Each call has a nominal time limit of five minutes.

One of the ways to keep track of who’s saying what about Iran is the #IranElection hashtag. Yet that can seem overwhelming.

Via Boing Boing, here’s a very nice solution to the overload: Super-filtered #IranElection info for the easily overwhelmed.

On the dark side of things comes news in a Wall Street Journal report today on how Iran’s web spying is aided by Western technology, citing technology experts in Iran and outside the country saying Iranian efforts at monitoring internet information go well beyond blocking access to websites or severing internet connections.

[…] Instead, in confronting the political turmoil that has consumed the country this past week, the Iranian government appears to be engaging in a practice often called deep packet inspection, which enables authorities to not only block communication but to monitor it to gather information about individuals, as well as alter it for disinformation purposes, according to these experts.

The monitoring capability was provided, at least in part, by a joint venture of Siemens AG, the German conglomerate, and Nokia Corp., the Finnish cellphone company, in the second half of 2008, Ben Roome, a spokesman for the joint venture, confirmed.

The "monitoring center," installed within the government’s telecom monopoly, was part of a larger contract with Iran that included mobile-phone networking technology, Mr. Roome said.

"If you sell networks, you also, intrinsically, sell the capability to intercept any communication that runs over them," said Mr. Roome.

A sobering milestone.

Related posts: