You might think that, I couldn’t possibly comment!

ImageOur departmental Yammer group drew my attention to an interesting article from last week’s Scotsman…apparently, Edinburgh City Council are facing a battle with the unions over their social media code of conduct. Sources in the article claim that the code, which limits what staff are allowed to say even while not at work, contravenes the European Convention of Human Rights in its assersion that staff cannot post “any comments or information that may undermine public confidence in the council, or act in any way that may bring the council into disrepute.”

The article has attracted quite a few comments as you can imagine, varying from sympathetic to outright hostility (towards both sides!). It seems that few topics divide public opinion these days more than public servants and social media!

All of us need to be careful what we say out there on public portals, and this is especially important when you work for the government – as Paris Brown found out to her cost recently. But with our government seeking to opt out of the new European “right to be forgotten” laws, how much should we be held accountable for past conversations or attitudes? What happens if your account is hacked? How much damage can a drunken post cause your career years down the line?

What do you think?


4 thoughts on “You might think that, I couldn’t possibly comment!

  1. So this is interesting…Edinburgh took the extra step of specifying social media in its staff code of conduct but from what I can see there isn’t anything referenced in the social media code that wouldn’t be found in your plain ‘ol code of conduct.

    So here is what I think happened: the social media code of conduct is being misinterpreted by managers who have no understanding, experience or interest in social media. So anything staff do online is subject to scrutiny by people who are inherently suspicious of social media.

    Let’s discuss.

    • I would agree with your analysis and see this as an example of risk averse culture rife through public sector. It also smacks of command and control culture where staff are treated as children by managers. I think it is more likely that unsuitable use of social media will happen in an environment where staff aren’t allowed to use their own judgement.

      • I agree with both of you. While the Scotsman might well be exaggerating aspects of the story, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was 100% true. I’ve found myself wondering whether it’s OK to sign online petitions recently in case I get pulled up for it later! Freedom of expression should always be the default position, only consider taking this away when your actions harm other people or infringe on their rights.

        It reminds me of the CCTV debacle where cameras were set up everywhere to “protect us from terrorism” – it turned out later they were being used to catch people smoking where they shouldn’t 😦

  2. Hello 🙂

    I’ve seen the mighty fist of a Local Authority slamming down on the (mis)use of social media first hand, where the LA tried to accuse 2 people of bringing the council in to disrepute and failed quite spectacularly through lack of knowledge of, A Social Media & B their own policy.

    Aside from that, IMHO too much is made of this new fangled ‘Social Media’ and trying to write it in to policies, codes of conduct or even contracts, surely a well thought out and written policy on conduct will cover ‘social media’ as it is today and whatever may emerge tomorrow.

    I can’t imagine in the 1930’s committees sat around in smoke filled meeting rooms wringing their hands and discussing how to write the new telephone in to the code of conduct, likewise the 80’s with the advent of the Fax.

    To try and say that you have to be careful of what you say on Twitter after 4 o’clock is frankly ridiculous, move away from social media, if I drive a van for my local LA it will be expected and written in policy that I drive within the law etc… at 4 o’clock when I jump in my car and head for home at a 40mph in a 30 zone the LA couldn’t come back to me and start me on the disciplinary ladder because I was using my own vehicle in my own time on my own business. Same goes for social media in my book.

    When you are ‘on the clock’ then you play the game and don’t bite the hand that feeds you, when you clock off then you can say and do as you like, again it is wise not not bite the hand that feeds you..

    The best social media policy (should you need such a thing) can be summed up quite succinctly as

    Don’t be a dick.

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