Director, the Democratic Society
European Parliament get social mauling
It was not a huge story, but the European Parliament came in for some stick from the Daily Telegraph the other day, for using social media monitoring tools to find out what people were saying about Europe.
Obviously the EU is for media paranoia what catnip is for cats, but it’s a warning to policymakers and others who are trying to understand what people across social media and other networks are saying. It may be published information, it may be out there in the open, but that doesn’t mean that some people won’t see you reading it as Government intrusion.
It’s a tricky problem – policymakers and politicians need a better idea of what is going on in networks, but there is a risk that their interest will be seen as snooping. Is this something that readers of this blog have come across? Is social media monitoring really worth it?
One can argue the EU, and the EP within it, should not exist at all. One might begrudgingly accept its existence and still berate it for being ‘out of touch’ with ordinary people in the member states.
What a serious broadsheet should not do with a straight face, is berate that same institution for trying to get a sense of what people want, need and feel, for offering people a way to stay in touch and keep an eye on its workings, and for communicating what it has to say through means that ensure the message is received by the widest possible number of people.
In any case the European Parliament is emphatically not setting up euro-election ‘troll patrol’ to “tackle Eurosceptic surge” and it is dishonest to imply so. The somewhat sinister sounding “public opinion monitoring tools” to “identify at an early stage whether debates of political nature among followers in social media and blogs have the potential to attract media and citizens’ interest” are commonly used modern tools of communication, as the reporter knows very well.