Folly of laws to regulate use of social media in strikes

As I type this I’m feeling very grateful for pod-casts as I have my earphones on listening, again, to Lancashire poet Lemn Sissay on Desert Island Discs. Bliss.

I’m running a two day course for union officers this week so I was pretty relieved to see there’s talk that the Government may have to abandon a section of the Trade Union Bill which required unions to give employers and the police two weeks notice of any social media plans around strikes and pickets.

Other than the fact it was a crazy, ill thought through idea drawn up by someone who clearly doesn’t understand social media, I also had to laugh as the idea was that unions must submit a campaign plan, detailing how Twitter and Facebook would be used, and what content would be published on them. Any tweets that broke the campaign plan could have seen the unions in breach of picketing guidelines leaving them liable for a fine of up to £20,000, and the picket could be declared unlawful and stopped. So what in that made me laugh?

Well I know of very few organisations, apart from maybe Coca-cola, which have social media campaigns at all, let alone one that well planned out. In truth, most companies don’t know what they will tweet tomorrow, let alone in two weeks time. And bearing in mind this is social media, and therefore is all about conversations, what would happen if someone tweeted them a question? Would they have to wait two weeks before they could answer?

On Saturday I was lucky enough to go with my lovely friends to see Mark Thomas at The Dukes Theatre again, and his work has left my head spinning. He highlighted the huge numbers of people living under unlawful surveillance, which made me reflect that the next time someone says they think their phone is tapped, or that they are being followed, we should perhaps think twice before writing them off as losing the plot.


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Mark Thomas is himself under surveillance, which whilst I’m not surprised I can’t help but think that, considering all his work is very much about publicly drawing attention to illegal and immoral practice, and knowing how much he loves Twitter, in these days of austerity, they ould save themselves a huge amount of money by just watching his Twitter feed and Facebook page!

Have a good week and stay safe online.