Civil servant socialising grinds to a halt

When it eventually came, after two and a half years of speculation, the announcement of the general election almost felt like a disappointment. But the welcome news finally came this morning: it’s ‘game on’.

Or rather, if you’re a civil servant – off. The day has seen a steady stream of tweets from civil servants (including the guv’nor), plus the odd blog post, warning of a period of ‘radio silence’.

In fact, when it finally came this morning, the official Cabinet Office guidance was pretty light on detail regarding online activity: I’d heard suggestions that some quite detailed rules were being circulated.

I spot a couple of points worth highlighting:

  • ‘Films, videos and photographs from departmental libraries or sources  should  not  be  made  available  for  use  by  political Parties. Tools for sharing videos and photographs, such as Flikr (sic) and YouTube should not be updated with new content [but…] material previously published can stand.’
    I can see some potential for conflict there: if, let’s say, a photo of a Ministerial visit has gone on Flickr with a CC licence, is that ‘fair game’ for a political leaflet?
  • ‘News sections of websites must comply with the advice on press releases… News  tickers  and  other mechanisms should be discontinued for the election period.’
    Eh? My assumption is that they mean ‘push’ apps, as opposed to an on-page animation technique; but even so, the wording is a little curious. And I can’t actually think of any specific examples of ‘push’ apps anyway. (Does Twitterfeed count?)

But whilst there’s a requirement to limit ‘civil servants’ participation  in  a professional capacity in social networks’, I don’t necessarily read that as the draconian ban it might have been. So whilst the government online community’s unanimous decision to go quiet is perfectly understandable, and unquestionably the safest thing to do, I’m not sure the guidance actually demands it.

The calm before the storm, perhaps. Enjoy a couple of weeks’ rest, gang; things could get very busy on 7 May.

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