Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Friday, 10 July 2009

Tom Brake MP is an unperson

Just seen on Lib Dem Voice that Tom Brake MP has had his Facebook account disabled just hours after he used it to organise a large public display in his constituency:

Tom, who last year became one of the first MPs in Britain to offer his constituents regular online advice surgeries, is widely noted in the media for his use of the internet to engage with the public.

Hundreds of people gathered last night in Wallington town centre to protest against the axing of the N213 night bus service. They were mobilised largely through the Save the N213 Facebook group which had grown to over 2,000 members – Tom Brake was one of the administrators.

This morning he found that his account had been disabled and that he had been removed as admin from several groups, including “Save the N213.”

I hope this turns out to just be an administrative cock-up on Facebook's part. It does however demonstrate the risk of public officials using mechanisms that are ultimately owned and mediated by private companies. As Tom himself says:

Much of my casework now comes through Facebook – the bizarre and heavy-handed decision to disable my account only hours after a protest organised through the social-networking site, severely disadvantages my constituents who rely on the net to contact me.

However "nice" companies like Facebook, Google (don't be evil) etc. might seem, they are ultimately there to try and make money and who knows what goes on behind the scenes in these organisations. They are not accountable to us.

It is worth bearing this in mind I think.

UPDATE: Apparently Tom's account was automatically disabled due to heavy traffic (possibly caused by interest in the event he had orgainsed) and Facebook are now working on reinstating his account. I still think the points I made are valid though.

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