Cornwall Council accused of 'Twitter spying'
Monday 12 March 2012
A council administration has been accused of using public
officials to "spy" on what opposition councillors say about its
leadership on Twitter.
Cornwall Council has branded "nonsensical" the claim made by Liberal Democrat councillors after they received a letter admitting officials who monitor the social network handed Tory council leader Alec Robertson notes on what was being said online while he presided over a cabinet meeting.
The meeting in January saw Cllr Robertson and other senior Conservatives criticised by opposition councillors using the social network for missing the start because they were meeting "judges from the Local Government Chronicle" who were in Truro because the unitary authority had been shortlisted for its Most Improved Council award.
When he arrived at the meeting he ordered opposition Lib-Dem and independent councillors, attending in a personal capacity, to stop using the social networking site to comment on what was happening, leading to a row over "censorship".
Cllr Alex Folkes, who received the letter after asking how Cllr Robertson had learned of the criticism, said: "I'm astonished, but frankly not surprised, that Alec Robertson should be diverting public money to spy on what opposition councillors are saying about him.
"Everything on Twitter is in the public domain - If Alec wants to know what is being said about him, he just needs to log on and read for himself.
"What he shouldn't be doing is using council staff and seeking to censor what his political opponents are saying."
A letter from Carole Theobald, the council's head of communications and strategy, confirmed a junior council officer was sent into the meeting with a print-out of what was being said online.
"Generally, we monitor Twitter during meetings and on this occasion... provided the information to the Leader.
"A statement was then issued in response to enquiries from the media regarding the council's position on the use of Twitter," the letter said.
A council spokeswoman said today that it regularly monitors a wide range of communications, including newspapers, radio and TV broadcasts, Twitter, blogs and Facebook, which "helps us keep in touch with what people are writing and saying about the council and Cornwall and to address any issues raised".
"As anyone who uses Twitter knows, it is a public forum where the whole idea is to post comments that other users will see. You would not use Twitter to publish anything that you wanted to keep private," she said.
"So it is nonsensical to say that the council is using this social media channel to spy on anyone.
"Neither is the council using its staff or council taxpayers' money to 'censor' councillors' Twitter posts.
"There are no plans to ban the use of social media at these meetings. However, as is well known, concerns have been expressed both within and outside the Council as to the content of some of the posts made on Twitter by councillors during meetings."
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Power of Nepal earthquake was equivalent to 20 huge atomic bombs
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...
£15000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to ...
£12 - £14 per hour: Recruitment Genius: We are looking for someone to join a s...
£15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...