Hands of a guy on laptop keyboard

You are what you tweet

Published on 02 August 2011
Updated on 05 April 2024

Tamás Deutsch, a Hungarian politician and a member of the European Parliament, strikes again. The gist of his Twitter update – in criticism of Thomas Melia, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State at the US Department of State – was shrouded in foul language.

I will not go into the reasons and specifics which triggered his reaction. They are detailed in yesterday’s blog post on The Economist. However, it was neither his first Twitter faux pas, nor was he the only politician who hastily tweeted angry messages, bad language and all.

A few months ago, the same journalist at The Economist reported on another tweet by Mr Deutsch. In more offensive language than last week’s tweet, the politician insulted Ferenc Gyurcsány, a former Hungarian prime minister from opposition Socialists.

Earlier this year, British politician David Potts, former leader of the Conservative party for South Tyneside Council, triggered an outburst of public outcry after tweeting an offensive comment on David Miliband, British Labour Party politician. Although the comment was condemned even by the political party, the politician remained unrepentant.

In Canada, ‘unparliamentary language’ is frowned upon more, as an incident a few months ago proved. Benoit Dorais, an Opposition city councillor in Montreal, tweeted from council using language which was deemed ‘insulting, degrading and clearly unparliamentary’. A council committee has now been entrusted to examine whether house rules should be extended to cover social media.

I wonder if these politicians have taken a look at Twitter’s Terms of Service, or The Twitter Rules. If so, they would have received confirmation that content responsibility lies with the person posting on Twitter (‘All content, whether publicly posted or privately transmitted, is the sole responsibility of the person who originated such content’).

However, they would have also come across a tip from Twitter: ‘What you say on Twitter may be viewed all around the world instantly. You are what you tweet!’

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