Politics and Technology – The Minefield of Social Media

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Published in The Huffington Post on Friday, 6th January, 2012.

The furore over Diane Abbott’s reckless tweeting during the past 24 hours has once again thrust the relationship between politics and technology back into the spotlight.

Throughout modern history, innovations in the way that we communicate with each other have had a profound impact on way that politics is carried out. The emergence of the print media, the telegram, radio and television have all revolutionised the way that politicians operate.

Today, the internet and 24 hour news organisations mean they must always stay on message or risk finding themselves embroiled in controversy – as Diane Abbott, like many before her, has so spectacularly demonstrated.

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Will social media networks come back to haunt tomorrow’s politicians?

Throughout modern history innovations in the way that we communicate with each other have had a profound impact on the political landscape. The emergence of the print media, the telegram, radio and television have all revolutionised the way that politicians operate. Today the internet and twenty-four hour news organisations mean they must always stay on message and never switch off. This is in stark contrast to previous eras. In a time before the majority of households owned a television, Labour Prime Minister Clement Atlee was asked by journalists if he had anything to say to the nation as he returned from a foreign trip. As he stood on the runway his response was a stern “no.” Imagine the reaction if this had come from David Cameron or Tony Blair. Atlee was a pre-eminent figure of the twentieth century but sad fact is that he would not have stood a chance today.

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