In the wake of the twittered "gaffe" by Presidential speechwriter Mai Mislang on Vietnam's wine, men and roadways, the President's communications team felt obliged to issue guidelines to all government officials and employees on the use of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Although they have reportedly been approved by Pres. Aquino, spokesperson Abigail Valte said these Guidelines will not yet be released and implemented because of Constitutional and legal concerns. The Daily Tribune did not hesitate to call the Guidelines all but censorship by too sensitive a Presidency.
In this post I examine the possibility of using Social Media in the anti-corruption campaign. The more that one million employees of the government are uniquely positioned to act as watchdogs and whistleblowers. But Congress must provide the appropriate laws and facilities.
Since the Guidelines have not actually been released of course, it's hard to say if this characterization is fair or not. But I think the president's men should see the caution flag. Though they are not likely to mandate any overt censorship of Tweets and FB activity, the Guidelines cannot also be a subtle call for self-censorship on the part of government employees.
The guidelines must not appear to be a prohibition on saying anything negative about the government since that would only invite the same kind of vituperative and explosive response that the original Mai Mislang Tweets did.
For example, this self-proclaimed Facebook Hate Page--which by the way is full of people displaying far worse behavior themselves in the manner of decrying and denigrating Mai Mislang than she did as a wine tweeter. But they can afford to do that only because they are not themselves Presidential speechwriters.
I suppose in this sense, we can regard the social media sites as a way for people to "give the government a piece of their mind" or just to blow off steam about some juicy piece of news.
As much gratuitous scorn as will relieve the scorner of that acrid core of anger and disdain at the object of hate may be freely dispensed at such a hate page. Participants are comfortable in the knowledge of being in the company of like-minded "friends." It's a slamfest where you can hit the slam button as often as you can dream up of some one-liner to share, or more often than not, some guttural sound decorated with special Ascii symbols. Krip Yuson offers up a devastating critique of the online behavior in the Age of Tweeter & Facebook.
Looking a the bigger picture however, and over the long term, President Aquino should really see Social Media as an important tool in his Anti-corruption campaign.
I have always believed that a proper Whistleblower Protection Law would empower our one million public employees to be the Eyes and Ears of the People at every level and niche of the government. They are in fact in the best position to expose corrupt activities.
Facebook and Twitter have enough privacy protections built in that such whistle blowers can protect themselves whilst still blowing the whistle on malfeasance.
What the government should really do is craft Guidelines that encourage the use of FB and Tweeter for fighting and exposing Corruption in the government. I realize there will have to be a vetting and evaluation process, but that is surely the job of DOJ in this brave new world.
A lot or raw intelligence can be gathered from FB and Tweeter on government shenanigans if government employees and ordinary citizens realize that their tweets can change the face of government.
The President's communication group has to develop and innovate on the FB/Tweeter platforms, create specialized applications and websites that cater to Whistleblowers -- large and small!