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(Political) Suicide by Facebook?

March 21, 2011

An interesting little story on the BBC News site today about a Blackpool councillor learning all about Facebook privacy settings the hard way.  Cllr Simon Blackburn, a Labour councillor in Blackpool, is a fan of Blackburn Rovers.  Rovers were playing Blackpool at the weekend.  At one point Blackpool were 2-0 up and Cllr Blackburn posted the following to Facebook from his mobile:

“Oh my actual God… the donkey-botherers are 2-0 up thanks to two of the worst refereeing decisions ever!”

Perhaps predictably this status was then visible to the whole of Facebook as a result of Cllr Blackburn’s staggering ignorance of basic Facebook privacy.  As an elected representative I’m sure Cllr Blackburn finds Facebook to be a very useful medium for communicating with his constituents.  This is why it’s staggering that he allowed a comment like the one above to appear in public.  He must surely be aware of how his Facebook presence is managed.

For the record ‘donkey-botherers’ is a nickname for Blackpool FC supporters, due to the famous donkey rides on Blackpool Pleasure Beach.  Obviously it’s not an entirely affectionate appellation.  For Cllr Blackburn to refer to his own constituents in this way is a bit of a faux-pas to say the least.  Combining football rivalry with insulting one’s constituents must be high on any politician’s not-to-do list.  Just below dying in some sex-related accident presumably.

It seems to me that Cllr Blackburn will need to do a lot of work to recover this one, especially with elections coming up in May.  Various groups in Blackpool, including I’m sure his political opponents, will be reminding voters of this one.  Cllr Blackburn may end up as a political casualty of his inept use of social media.  Not the first politician to drop a clanger on social media and almost certainly not the last, Cllr Blackburn will be ruing the fact that he didn’t spend 5 minutes familiarising himself with those settings and how his various interactions with Facebook would be displayed.

It just goes to show that while social media are undeniably useful to politicians, celebrities and anyone else with a message or image to get across it only takes a single slip to blow it all.  A direct, instant connection to a constituency can be very powerful, but like any power it can be constructive or destructive.  Cllr Blackburn’s social media experiment has blown up in his face.  It remains to be seen if his political career has been fatally wounded.

As the man himself might say, “Oh my actual God!  That went spectacularly wrong.  Failbook strikes again.”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. madvixen permalink
    March 21, 2011 21:30

    You would be suprised at how few Councillors understand how to use Social Media – to the extent that the LGA actually runs a Facebook for Councillors course (at least it did), which is, of course, not a free service.

    This problem runs deeper than the Social Media aspect though – it sums up the problem faced when our democratically elected representatives are not representative of all their constituents. We have a major problem in that becoming a Cllr is not achievable for the vast majority of us. Those of us who work full time, raise families, and generally have other demands on our time, soon find that the avenues for us to join politics, are minimal if not non existant. As such, we have to leave the decision making to, in general, people who are retired. People who want to be “down with the kids” but have no idea how to go about it.

  2. March 22, 2011 13:18

    Really does make you question why some people become councillors. I know one wiltshire councillor who strangely opposes all planning applications near his farm, in the planning commitee he runs, yet managed somehow to get retrospective permission for the conversion of a major farm building into an art gallery which was already complete and open…

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