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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mayor Gavin Newsom + Twitter = Very Bad Idea

Our (cough!) beloved Mayor, Gavin Newsom uses Twitter as a way of public relations with the public. He posts announcements of fundraisers he will attend and other self promoting things, such as his recent posting of being on Larry King Live.

But let's ask ourselves the question, is Newsom's use of Twitter such a good idea or a really bad PR stunt that has gone horribly wrong?

BART did bad PR for their "hall of shame" photo gallery
If you recall from one of my postings on January 2, 2009, BART decided to open a Facebook page and invited people to post photographs of bad passengers in the act. Unfortunately, it came at a really bad time, when the local blog sites like SFist caught on to the story just one day after the shooting of Oscar Grant by a BART Police officer. I personally felt that having a government agency legitimize the posting of "bad" passengers in the act is absolutely inappropriate, and especially just after a police shooting, it's in really bad taste to sanction something like this.

Just one day after the negative remarks made by commentators on SFist, Gothamist (New York's version of SFist), my reaction, and websites that already posts snapshots (BARTrage), BART decided to take the photo album down. BART doesn't like negative publicity, so it did the right thing to stop the already bad PR bleeding from the shooting incident.

Newsom loves to block people on Twitter who challenge him
Gavin Newsom using Twitter is in really bad taste. While he is not involved in a high profile incident like how BART was, he should really consider quitting the Twitter stuff and let his press secretary do the work for him the old fashioned way.

The SFGate's "City Insider" reported that some of Newsom's critics are being blocked from his Twitter, and while only five have been blocked, it shows that Newsom is afraid of some criticism from the public. It should be noted that the "City Insider" entry states that only five people have been blocked from the Mayor's twitter for what his campaign representative calls "terms of service" violations, however it was not a Twitter TOS violation. So what is Newsom's list of self proclaimed "terms of service" violations? When people challenge his authority or policies? (Get your press secretary to answer this question in my comments box).

People known to have been banned:
  • League of Young Voters: Newsom or his "crew" decided to ban them, even though this group only wanted to question Newsom's " legitimate policy issues related to his agenda" (Quote from Jonah Horowitz in the City Insider story).
  • Steven T. Jones of the SF Bay Guardian questioned Newsom on Twitter asking "Why do you think Twitter is a good communication medium for you?" and instead of receiving a reply, got banned from Newsom's Twitter. Jones questioned the the Mayor's authority to do this through his public relations person and that person accused Jones of being an "internet troll."
I don't understand why Newsom blocking/banning certain people from his Twitter is even appropriate. The League of Young Voters asked legitimate questions about some of his policies, and I think that Gavin doesn't want to answer them because he's afraid of a good challenge.

Also, blocking Steven Jones is a really terrible idea. He asked the question that I think was absolutely appropriate and not made for "internet trolls." Having the press secretary of a major city government call you a "troll" for any reason, is just absolutely absurd, stupid, and really inappropriate. Plus, you never block the press. NEVER. They tell the stories to the public.

Here are some things to think about:
  1. First of all, Gavin Newsom using Twitter is a poor use of public relations.
  2. Posting on Twitter is a risky thing anyway (security wise), it's like putting a GPS device in your coat and everyone knows where you are at all times.
  3. He represents a major city government. Whatever he says, basically goes, or can be misused or misinterpreted by the public.
  4. By blocking Twitter users from his blog while using the service during his working hours on the TAXPAYER'S MONEY, he is promoting government sponsored censorship; which is absolutely inappropriate morally and ethically.
  5. If he uses Twitter during the hours that he is paid by the taxpayers, is that considered public record under San Francisco's "Sunshine Ordinance?" Does this include any of replies back to Twitter members and commands on Twitter to block individuals?
In conclusion
Newsom should get out of Twitter NOW. He is opening up a can of worms and they are slowly sneaking away. Blocking the media and legitimate organizations asking the tough questions is absolutely inappropriate for a head of a major city.

Hey Newsom, it's time to stop running away from the hard questions and start taking them head-on. You want to call yourself a Mayor, prove it; otherwise, you will be as unpopular as Ron Dellums.

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