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Council Twitter Ban – 20 Months On

NOTE: This content is old - Published: Wednesday, Dec 12th, 2012.

An odd story has emerged from a Council meeting yesterday with a councillor making headlines for being banned from tweeting.  The BBC is saying that the councillor has also claimed reports in The Leader are inaccurate regarding his ‘ejection’ from the meeting. 

The ban on twitter use is not news to Wrexham. com readers, we reported on it back last year (story here) after we were stopped from tweeting on April 5th 2011, and we were unaware of any changes in the rules since. 

Cllr Arfon Jones has made nearly 6000 tweets and has been using twitter since Februrary 9th 2010 – a period of 2 years and 10 months, however his recent tweets appear to be the first time he has tweeted from inside a meeting or mentioning the twittering ban. 

We asked, via twitter naturally, what had made the councillor in question think the rules had changed, or if he was unaware of the rules and he replied:

@wrexham :what is banned is transmitting proceedings, sending a twitter isn't the proceedings! Constitution is 350p nothing on social media

— Arfon Jones (@ArfonJ) December 12, 2012

He believes his tweets did not constitute ‘proceedings’ and that the wording of the rules was never meant to cover tweets.  But we asked whether tweets recounting the views of the lead member during the meeting itself could be interpreted as the proceedings of that meeting, he replied:

@wrexham : that's the point isn't it, a question of interpretation, when SO45 was written what was the intention of the author? Not twitter!

— Arfon Jones (@ArfonJ) December 12, 2012

He did not answer our last question on if he would have used carrier pigeons or telephones as they could be covered by the rules as they existed at the time of writing.  We are still unsure if he was unaware of the rules or is aware of the rules and deliberately broke them to highlight and challenge their existence. 

The Council have clarified what we already knew, that the issue is around Standing Order 45 “Photograph and Recording at Meetings”. 

It says “Proceedings at meetings may not be photographed, videoed, sound recorded or transmitted in any way outside the meeting without prior permission of the Chair” , with the order applying to everyone in the meeting. 

Wrexham. com reported on councillors being given iPads and in our story mentioned we looked forward to things becoming more ‘live’ for example scrapping the current print news friendly embargos, and as per our report on Tom James becoming Freeman of Wrexham said we welcomed the first tweet from a council meeting (report here) and hoped there would be more – which has not happened until Cllr Jones picked up his Blackberry. 

We here at Wrexham. com welcome the challenging of the archaic rules that favour other news mediums, and hope more members will now press to get the rules change.  It would mean embracing the technology that council are providing its members, and allow them, the media and the public full use.  To be clear this goes further than twitter, we would love to ‘live blog’ meetings or use whatever communication method is current and possible!

Our top tip for anyone in a council meeting who wishes to tweet is to queue up the tweets – as we have done so before – and when you leave the meeting you can send them all in one go!

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