Social media warning issued to Redbridge councillors

New guidelines on the use of social media warns council members to remember they are representing the local authority when they send messages for all to see.

The reminder, which is due to be circulated after a standards committee meeting today, mentions the use of social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and also chat rooms.

Under the revised guidelines, council members are reminded not to tweet on issues being decided upon by them.

An extract from the report, written by Redbridge Council’s head of communications Eddie Gibb, says: “Members are particularly required to consider whether they are publishing comments on social media sites that could indicate they have a pre-determined view, eg in relation to a planning application.”

At the beginning of 2011, figures released by social networking website Facebook indicated around half the UK population had signed up to use its service.

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Cllr Wes Streeting, deputy leader of the Labour group, welcomed the report and said he hopes more councillors will embrace social networking.

“It’s a great way of increasing transparency and helps councillors to interact with people,” he said. “But I think the council is right to draw attention to some of the risks associated with social networking, like with tweeting on issues such as planning,” he added.

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The report also states: “The guidance on the use of the internet in relation to publishing material that is illegal, indecent, or brings the council into disrepute applies to social media services, even though the circulation of content may be limited to other users of the service, eg Facebook ‘friends’.”

Cllr Paul Canal, a Conservative group member and Twitter user, said: “I think anything that encourages better communication from councillors and the council has to be a good thing.

“For local government there should not be just one way of communicating with constituents, we have to use all possible avenues.”

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