Comms chiefs say Boris Johnson tweet furore 'justified'

The outcry over Boris Johnson changing his Mayor of London Twitter feed was 'justified', according to council comms leaders.

Boris Johnson: transferred more than 250,000 Twitter followers to his new account @BorisJohnson
Boris Johnson: transferred more than 250,000 Twitter followers to his new account @BorisJohnson

Last week, Johnson changed the name of his Twitter account from @MayorofLondon to @BorisJohnson as he launched his bid for another four years running London.

Labour’s candidate, Ken Livingstone, suggested the flamboyant Tory may have ‘abused public resources’ by taking all 253,569 followers with him from his taxpayer-funded Mayoral account to his new election Twitter stream.

Johnson later announced that he would relinquish his Twitter audience and not publish political campaign messages via the new account.

Brighton & Hove City Council head of comms John Shewell said: ‘The outcry was justified in the sense that Johnson has immediate access to a list of followers.

‘There has to be a clear demarcation between what are party political and official duties of a public office,’ he said.

Newcastle City Council principal comms specialist Andrew McKegney said that his unit regularly monitored council social media output and had produced a handbook for staff and councillors to ensure there was no abuse of the system.

McKegney added: ‘The leader of the council’s official Twitter feed is closed down in the run-up to the elections, though councillors will no doubt continue to use their own private Twitter feeds.’

How I see it

Tom Stannard, director of policy and comms, Blackburn with Darwen Council

The business potential of social media is well recognised by councils like ours. It is used as part of normal service delivery with robust guidance in place, covering risks as well as opportunities.

Embracing social media has helped us innovate and support our public affairs efforts. The corporate and political accounts are clearly defined.

It would be acceptable to provide blog facilities for councillors and if that was the case, they would fall under the normal regard we give to the legislation governing publicity during the period of heightened sensitivity before elections and referendums.

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