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Twitter training to help Norfolk county councillors avoid social media gaffes

Lowestoft police have signed up to Twitter

Lowestoft police have signed up to Twitter

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Special training on using social media has been provided to Norfolk county councillors, in the light of embarrassing gaffes and blunders by politicians in other parts of the country.

A number of councillors outside of Norfolk have found themselves in hot water after posting messages on sites such as Twitter and Facebook, and council bosses are keen to avoid a repeat by members of County Hall.

Public relations officers at the council held a social media training day on Wednesday last week, with 10 of the 84 county councillors attending.As well as warning them about the pitfalls of social media, the councillors were also told how using the likes of Twitter can help build relationships and foster a sense of community.

A council spokesman said: “We had 10 members from three different parties who attended our social media training. It was designed to give councillors an overview of what social media is, tell them about some of the most popular platforms and make them aware of the opportunities and pitfalls they present.

“We talked to them about how we’re using social media at the authority –we interact and respond to enquiries on our @NorfolkCC Twitter account and on the Norfolk Facebook page which have more than 7,000 followers and more than 1,000 likes respectively.We covered how social media can be used to build relationships, foster a greater sense of community and get information out quickly in emergency situations.”

But some councillors and MPs have caused controversy with their comments on Twitter, where messages of 140 characters can be posted for public viewing.

Last year, Julian Swainson, then the Labour group leader on Waveney District Council, was investigated over comments he made on Twitter, which appeared to question the attractiveness of opposition party members. After a number of complaints to the council, the matter was referred to the authority’s assessment sub-committee.

It made a number of recommendations and Mr Swainson later apologised after admitting one remark might be seen as offensive.

In August, Exeter city councillor Catherine Dawson had to write a letter of apology to Ben Howlett, the national chairman of Conservative Future, after posting an insulting message on Twitter about him.

The Labour councillor intended the tweet to be a private message to another councillor, but sent it publicly, describing it as “a 5am lack of judgement”.

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