Public Sector: We were 'frittered' on Twitter site

People keep calling me a Luddite because I have little interest in the world of Twitter. Up until just a few days ago I saw very little reason for getting involved in sending 140-character snippets of information to a tiny circle of people. That was until I discovered the LGA was being 'frittered' - in other words, fraudulently twittered.

Almost by chance, the media team stumbled upon a Twitter site apparently run by our chief executive. It had his picture, tweets and almost 500 followers. The major problem is that he didn't set up the site and it certainly wasn't him twittering.

Three weeks ago we contacted Twitter to ask it to remove the site - we have still heard nothing. Whoever is running this site is gathering followers by following hundreds of other people and there is not a damn thing we can do to stop it.

For the reputation of any organisation, frittering is a new, and extremely disturbing, phenomenon. Web 2.0 has not only brought an entirely new way for organisations to communicate with people - it has also brought an entirely new way for people to damage the reputation of that very same organisation.

If a personality or a chief executive is impersonated on Twitter and has enough followers, then the damage that could be done is immense.

It is a sorry state of affairs that any organisation in the public, private or charity sector now needs to jump into Twitter and register every name it can think of in relation to either itself or the organisation, to stop it being used and abused.

If Twitter doesn't sort its act out soon it will be discredited as a place to do business. For those who want to be at the forefront of communications this would be a sad development.

PR people, whether they like or loathe Twitter, need to get on it quickly. If the IT team blocks the site, then it needs to be overruled. The fallout from a frittered message from your head honcho to hundreds of trusted contacts would be immense - especially if you didn't even know where the comments came from.

Richard Stokoe is head of news at the Local Government Association

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