GCN LAB IMPRESSIONS
Fox News reports, Secret Service agent decides it's 'blathering'
- By John Breeden II
- May 23, 2011
A frustrated federal agent who got his Twitter IDs mixed up is causing a minor headache for the Secret Service. And Fox News is more than happy to fan the flames.
Here’s what happened: According to the Secret Service, an agent responsible for posting news on the official Twitter Secret Service feed was frustrated at having to run down some leads on a case, which apparently required him to watch Fox News. (For the sake of noun/pronoun agreement, we're presuming the agent was male, but we don't know.) The agent wanted to post his frustration on his personal Twitter page, which we can only guess is something like “SecretAgentMan,” but accidentally logged into the official site.
So much for automatic logins. Anyway, our crack agent posted, “Had to monitor Fox for a story. Can't. Deal. With. The. Blathering.” This of course looked out of place alongside the site's other posts, which are comments such as, “Have you seen our Most Wanted Fugitives? Anyone with info should contact the Secret Service at 1-877-242-3375.”
The Secret Service apologized to Fox News and explained what happened in a statement. “An employee with access to the Secret Service's Twitter account, who mistakenly believed they were on their personal account, posted an unapproved and inappropriate tweet. We apologize for this mistake, and the user no longer has access to our official account. Policies and practices which would have prevented this were not followed and will be reinforced for all account users.”
Translation, “SecretAgentMan” had his Twitter wings clipped, and now, most likely, all Tweets will be vetted through official channels before going live.
We can hardly blame the Secret Service for this misstep. After all, they have only been Tweeting since May 9. And really, what ended up on the page is not that big a deal, despite the posturing by Fox. It is funny that Fox was running a story about how the Secret Service interrogated a young boy without his parents present at the time, which probably caused the agent’s frustration.
So the Secret Service got a real-life warning about the dangers of our instant information society, and why federal agencies in particular need to be wary of their public outreach. Even though the Tweet in question was taken down within a half hour, it had already been re-tweeted and re-posted thousands of times by then. The horse not only escaped the barn, it multiplied into a stampede. At that point, it was like trying to get the pee out of the pool.
Public outreach is vital to government agencies. But the recent incident shows that how news gets distributed and who has access to these new communication channels needs to be part of the overall plan – and in the case of the Secret Service, those policies need to be enforced.
It’s easy to start up a Twitter account. Using that account for good and not getting egg on your face, well, that’s a bit more difficult.