Are MPs going to have problems using Twitter during the general election?

With another general election coming round, this post from the run-up to 2010 may well turn out to be pertinent once more. So here it is, slightly updated, ready for you to keep ahead of the game:

Ahead of the 2010 general election, there was a flurry of discussion mainly on Twitter, following PR Week‘s report highlighting the possible problem for MPs who have “MP” in their Twitter name.

That’s because Parliament’s rules say you can’t call yourself an MP if you’re not one and all MPs stop being ones when Parliament is dissolved for a general election.

There are really only two things to bear in mind about the story:

(1) We have a story of this type in the run-up to every general election since t’internet came along. Previously it’s been “MPs will have to shut websites” or “MPs will have to stop sending emails”. But in practice the combination of Parliament being sensibly flexible over its rules (yes, I did just write that – clearly not the same team of people as the ones who fought such a long battle to keep Parliamentary footage off YouTube) and a little bit of ingenuity has always got round the issue.

(2) It’s very easy to change your name on Twitter, as I demonstrated earlier today becoming an MP and then stopping becoming an MP. If only elections were that easy.

But of course, it’s more fun to just PANIC!!!!!! and OMG! if you change your name on Twitter you may use your blue tick and then everyone knows your followers will all disappear and no-one will read your tweets. Oh, hang on…

What’s more of an issue is that existing legal powers to update election imprint laws to cover the internet have still not been used, which means that there isn’t clear guidance on what candidates (ex MPs or not) should do to stay the right side of the law. If we see some anonymous attack tweets directed at candidates that question could become a lively one.

4 responses to “Are MPs going to have problems using Twitter during the general election?”

  1. These rules just cannot be applied on the internet.

    So, for example, the courts think that an internet page is republished as new each time it is served to a web browser. If this is the same interpretation, which legally it should be, taken by the parliamentary authorities then basically any reference to ‘MP’ would have to be removed even from press releases or speeches etc that are years old.

    Fortunately, the previous common sense answer has been to ignore the law and stick a disclaimer on the header or footer of the website saying something like ‘Any references on this website to my work as an MP are purely historical and apply only to the 2001-2005 parliament’ etc.

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