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Camden councillors warned: Watch your tweets

Tweeting politicians told of risk of not looking as 'involved' enough in the meeting

27 July, 2017 — By Richard Osley

Use of phones and ipads at council meetings is on the increase as politicians look to widen the debate

IT has become the new routine for councillors at Town Hall meetings: 1. Stand up, 2. Deliver speech and 3. Tweet that you have said something amazingly important and wait for those life-affirming retweets from the masses to flood in.

Camden’s social media-addicted politicians, however, have been warned that fiddling with their phones and staring at glowing screens throughout council debates could – just possibly – give the impression they are not listening as intently as the public might expect.

Emily Thornberry’s tweet from Rochester is cited in guidance to Camden councillors about social media

The alert comes in new guidance issued by borough solicitor Andrew Maughan, who told councillors this week “that members of the public might have concerns about how involved you are in the meeting should you be, for example, tweeting about issues not related to the meeting or during a public deputation.”

He also warned: “Some particular care is needed when posting during quasi-judicial meetings. Commenting on planning and licensing applications brings with it an inherent risk of being seen as biased or having pre-determined an application… Even commenting on a completely separate matter carries risks as you might be seen as having missed a key piece of evidence or not being interested in listening to the evidence being presented.”

Mr Maughan used a famous case involving a Labour MP to explain how even the tone of tweets could backfire. “Social media posts can be lawful but still cause offense [sic], resulting in damage to your reputation,” he said. “ A good example was the case of Emily Thornberry MP resigning from the shadow cabinet in November 2014 after a tweet concerning Rochester, which was considered offensive.

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