How to do Twitter, Home Office style

Oh, they have been busy bees at the Home Office this Summer.  The Go Home vans, immigration checks at tube stations, not telling Nick Clegg what they’re up to, it’s amazing they’ve found time for anything else.

On Tuesday they published their Twitter policy. While I’d like to think it was hastily drawn up in response to criticism of the way its account was used during the immigration spot checks, with statistics of how many people had been arrested were given along with disturbing photographs of people being bundled into vans, I’m not sure the wheels of bureaucracy turn that quickly. Here’s an example of one of their tweets from earlier this month:

It’s quite amusing to see that whoever drew this document up doesn’t seem to understand Twitter that well. I also had a bit of a giggle about the way the policy was being breached already.

The Ministry of Peter Bone, The Secretary of State for Nick Robinson?

Problem number 1:

At the moment we are only following other governmental Twitter accounts.

If we are not following any department that is simply because we haven’t yet come across their Twitter stream.

Except if you have a look at the 83 Twitter accounts they are following, you find the BBC’s Nick Robinson and other journalists, Netmums, The Salvation Army, ABTA Travel and the British Monarchy. Obviously, I have no objection in principle to any of these being followed, but it’s not in keeping with their stated policy of just two days ago. And if you have to pick one MP to follow, why on earth would it be Peter Bone?

Do they understand how direct messages work?

Problem number 2:

In most circumstances we will not reply to direct messages. The limitations of Twitter’s format mean that we would not be able to give you a full and useful reply.

If you send us a direct message you will receive a message explaining how to get in touch with us by email, phone or letter.

Except you can’t send them a direct message if they aren’t following you, so that doesn’t apply to very many people.

But be assured, they are listening

We review all @ messages every day, but as a general rule we do not reply to them. Instead we share the feedback we’re getting from you with the appropriate people in the department. Even if we do not reply to you directly, that does not mean we aren’t listening to you.

Well, it sounds friendly enough, I suppose. Except in the current climate, and revelations about NSA and Prism and the like, the context could be much more chilling. Who are these appropriate people? GCHQ?

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • I would of thought GCHQ would be offering a Twitter monitoring service to government – for practical purposes there is no problems about privacy – as effectively all Twitter communications are public…

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 22nd Aug '13 - 2:19pm

    Yes, Roland, but if someone doesn’t like what you tweet, they could put you under closer surveillance, shall we say?

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