Last week, when British Prime Minister David Cameron was speaking out publicly about internet access and pornography, it emerged that the @Number10gov Twitter account (the official account of the UK PM) was following a high-class escort agency based in London. Admittedly the account representing the office of the UK Prime Minister is following over 360,000 other users, so it’s easy to imagine that a number of them might not be totally appropriate.
Downing Street told the BBC that the account was followed due to an automated system they had in place way back in 2009, and that “following” did not necessarily imply endorsement by the PM. Number 10 also said that it was in the process of unfollowing accounts deemed ‘inappropriate’.
While not a particularly huge issue in itself, it’s not the first time that the actions of the @Number10gov account has caused embarrassment for the PM. Last month the account accidentally favourited an offensive tweet about Foreign Secretary William Hague.
While labeling something as a favourite, liking a page on Facebook or following a user on Twitter all sound like positive actions akin to endorsing the content or its author, the reality can be far from it. For example, it’s perfectly feasible that an animal rights activist might ‘Like’ a hunting page on Facebook just so that they are able to monitor what goes on and know when and where to stage a protest, or someone might ‘favourite’ a negative tweet purely to mark it for reference at a later date.
This raises an interesting issue in terms of Facebook Page suggestions and the use of other users in promoting content on the site. As referenced above, there must be countless examples of people liking the pages of competitor brands, or public figures following their polar opposites. As they say, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. It makes perfect sense to keep abreast of what your rivals are up to, but it’s easy to see how this could end up being embarrassing if your name is used to promote a cause or company that you are publicly outspoken against.
What do you think about the public nature in which content is seemingly endorsed, and how people’s habits and what they choose to follow online is used to promote engagement on social networks? Should it be opt-in, or does your use of the network for free give it the right to use your data to further its own growth?