Friday, July 31, 2009

There's been a lot of chatter in the news recently about social media and its utilization by government officials. The prominent issue that's being kicked around is the appropriate use of social media by private citizens who serve our nation in an official government capacity and, many times, have the need to be discreet whether revealing their specific geographical location or discussing sensitive details of projects or plans on which they are working. Some say that the distinction is obvious for what information should and should not be released out in the open for public consumption, to be seen / heard / read / digested / tweeted / retweeted / etc. In this era of incredible, unprecedented information accessibility I, for one, am both relieved and optimistic that this conversation is taking place in both social and mainstream media circles.

Take for example CNN Audience Interaction Producer Eric Kuhn's article, "Do quick tweets sink ships?" (a play on the classic WWII era slogan, "loose lips sink ships"), posted yesterday. It discusses Representative Mark Kirk who is running for Senate in Illinois and also happens to be a Navy Reservist. According to the article, Kirk tweeted, real-time, about serving at the Pentagon's National Military Command Center while on military duty. While I understand the two issues at stake the article brought into question -- should he have revealed his geographical location (the Pentagon) or is there a conflict of interest in that he was tweeting as a military official who is running for an office under his claimed political party (he's a Republican) -- what really got me was the other piece of information that was released by his spokesman, that "two messages noting his service were posted on Twitter by a staff member." Excuse me? Does anyone else see something wrong with this?

Not so obvious a distinction, especially when credibility is absolutely fundamental to the medium in which we communicate. It raises the age-old question, should some things just be left unsaid?