Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Games politicians play

An anti-social social media experience
London, ON
March 2014
I made the front page of our local daily newspaper, the London Free Press, today. (Here's the link to the full article, Orser posting crosses line, expert says. Please don't laugh at the pic of me.) The issue was something strange that I had witnessed on Facebook on Monday night: London City Councillor Stephen Orser re-posted apparently private scans of a student's own college and university ID cards to a publicly accessible FB forum. The cards belonged to Andrew Steven Castaneda, who self-identifies on Facebook as "Andrew Steven".

Orser, who is a "friend" of this individual on Facebook, shared the photo on the public FB group, Welcome to the Old East Village. A followup comment from Orser indicates the individual inquestion was "Just an old friend that moved to Toronto." In the Free Press article, Orser said because Castaneda uses a different name on Facebook, Orser said he "felt compelled" to repost the pics, saying "in the interest of full disclosure, I put it up so people could see (both names are from) the same person.”

Page 2 of article
Click page scans to enlarge
According to the story, Mr. Orser subsequently removed the offending posting. As of this morning, I am unable to access the Facebook page in question - I'm quite certain I've been blocked. Mr. Orser's Facebook profile is similarly unavailable.

If I may be so bold as to offer Mr. Orser a little advice: This has nothing to do with your job as a city councillor, benefits no one, and casts a serious shadow on a role that's supposed to set an example for the community. While sharing photos that FB friends have posted is an entirely technically acceptable thing to do within the Facebook platform, the decision by an elected official to do so opens up a raft of privacy and confidentiality issues. At the same time, it suggests strongly that City Hall's acceptable use policies governing city councillor use of social media tools are either non-existent, woefully inadequate, or not being followed.

In the article, Mr. Orser complains about being berated in this manner:
“If it’s somebody from Ward 4, I’m glad to help them and I’m glad to take the hits,” he said. “But when you’re trying to do your job this really wears you down.”
Apologies, but I'm not sure how this constitutes "helping" a constituent, and I don't see how this is remotely connected to a city councillor dong his job. Engaging in the kind of online behaviors that would prompt me to ban my teenaged kids permanently from Facebook does not in any way constitute "doing his job." If I'm mistaken, I'd like to invite Mr. Orser to set the record straight in a comment here, in Twitter or on Facebook.

From where I sit, this incident speaks to a pattern of less-than-acceptable social media behaviour among councillors that should give Londoners pause before they select their next set of elected officials. If we're trying to be a competitive, digital-age city, this isn't how we're going to get there.

Your turn: Do elected officials have to adhere to a higher standard when using social media?

Update - Thu. Mar. 20: Pat Maloney has published a follow-up article in the Free Press: Online critic of London councillor Stephen Orser won't ease up on criticism


Andrew Castaneda said...
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Carmi Levy said...
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Glenn said...

Are politicians held to a higher standard? I don't know if I would call it exactly that. I think we should all be held to the same standard when it comes to online behaviour. We should all respect each other's privacy. We should all understand our own responsibilities when it comes to protecting our own privacy. We should all understand our own vulnerabilities when it comes to online information security. We should all understand that online behaviour should be treated just the same as in-person behaviour, and that we can't take liberties online that we wouldn't take in real life.

When it comes to being a politician, however, they need to understand that since they represent other people and since they are more often in the public eye, that their actions are being watched much more closely. That their actions are being much more heavily scrutinized. And most importantly that their behaviour is amplified. With that comes harsher criticism and in some cases consequences to which 'common folk' would not be subjected.

Higher standard? I would hope we all behave to a high standard. As a politician, though, you have to know that people are use your head!! I suppose I just wish 'common sense' and 'politician' could be included in the same sentence much more often.

Carmi Levy said...

Glenn: It's a fair, valid question. I agree with you that we should all be held to the same, high standard. But when you run for public office, I believe your visibility makes violations even more disappointing.

I like how you explain it: maybe it's not so much the standard we should be concerned about, but the visibility and implications of sticking to it. And in that regard, some folks need to pay more attention to the ripple effects than others.

Common sense? Politician? Not in our lifetime :)