David Cameron will no doubt be feeling a little embarrassed and quietly furious. It has come to light that he has been inadvertently following a London escort agency on a Twitter account at No 10.
Remaining up-to-date with a service providing “the finest escorts to gentlemen of distinction” is hardly the image the PM is out to promote. Tabloids have pounced on the news with relish, no doubt speculating about a possible return to the halcyon news opportunities of the past, when the sleaze and innuendo ran rampant.
The faux pas is apparently an oversight relating to an auto following setting on the account, originating from the days of the previous leader Gordon Brown. The @Number10gov account was set to automatically follow anyone who followed it, resulting in close to 400,000 accounts that now all need to be checked and un-followed where appropriate. This process is presently underway.
This nonsensical situation is not a welcome occurrence, particularly in light of the PMs recent statements about preventing online filth from continually appearing before the eyes of the realm on social media sites, and how they must clean up their act. He commented: “It’s not acceptable what’s allowed to happen on these sites. It’s their responsibility, and those posting hateful remarks, first and foremost.” He exhorted the website operators to sort out the problem and if they did not take immediate action for members of the public to boycott the sites in protest.
Some have taken this advice, it seems, and a group of UK protesters arranged a day of silence on Twitter campaign to raise awareness of the site’s apparent casual attitude regarding threats and abuse, despite Twitter promising to introduce a Report Abuse button.
The downsides of social media were also encountered by the PM back in September when an extremely offensive tweet, was marked as a favourite on his official account.
Perhaps this presents a good lesson to us all about the potential hazards of using social media. It is a powerful tool, to engage and communicate with an audience, but it also needs careful management. The slightest unintentional slip-up can generate a mighty storm and the backlash can be difficult for public figures to repair and contain.