City_of_Spokane_Seal.svg

An interesting dilemma in Spokane, Washington, regarding a paid Facebook ad

This is one that I think has a series of interesting political implications and is very worthy of debate, not for how controversial the action is, but because of the potentially chilling effect it could have on free speech.

Here’s the background.  Spokane, Washington, just past an ordinance which requires most employers offer paid sick leave.  As you can imagine, this was a highly controversial issue.  Councilwoman Karen Stratton was one of the supporters of the ordinance.  In the most recent election she was opposed by Evan Verduin, the owner of an architectural design firm.  Verduin also opposed the paid sick leave ordinance and was upset that Councilwoman Stratton, among others, didn’t conduct more study or outreach to the business community.

Here’s where it gets interesting.  Verduin took to Facebook to express his opposition to the new policy and the way in which it became law:

“Now that the election season is over, the City Council has voted to enact the sick leave ordinance without additional study. There was no additional outreach to local businesses, no contact with business associations, and a total disregard of dozens of scientific studies that prove legislation like this harms those most for whom it is intended to help. Karen Stratton and wanted this legislation passes, and they delayed the vote prior to election to mislead the voters of Spokane. Shame on you Karen!”

Verdium then used his campaign funds to pay for the post to appear as a sponsored ad.

Another twist: Veridun is a member of Spokane’s Planning Commission and up for reappointment, which is subject to the consent of Council.  Councilwoman Stratton has announced that she will oppose Veridun’s appointment, laying out her reasons why in a letter to Council and the Mayor:

“The most charitable characterization of his comments is that they were juvenile and immature. In any other context, the comments could be defamatory and actionable.”

“The issue is whether Mr. Verduin is capable of engaging in civil public discourse that reflects well on the City and the Plan Commission.”

My feeling?  I can understand Councilwoman Stratton’s feelings, I really can.  That being said, I disagree with the decision to oppose Veridun’s appointment.  One of the most difficult things in politics – one that I will openly admit I struggle with – is dealing with the fact that citizens can say mean, nasty, terrible things about you.  Facebook gives your critics a megaphone.  Public officials may not like it, but within some very broad limits, there’s nothing that can be done about it.  If you assume that citizens criticizing elected officials is appropriate – and I do – then I think it’s unfair to oppose a citizen’s reappointment to a commission, provided that the citizen in question is doing a good job and represents your views.

Again, this is a difficult one, but public officials have to have thick skin.  That being said, I acknowledge that this is easy for me to say…I’m on the other side of the country.  If I were Councilwoman Stratton, I may feel very differently!

 

Police officer suspended after giving instructions on how to best run over protestors

A police officer in St. Paul, Minnesota has been suspended for making the following insane Facebook post:

St. Paul and Minneapolis (the twin cities) have seen a sharp rise in protest activity related to the Black Lives Matter movement (in fact, I’d previously written about it, when a Minneapolis Councilwoman “outed” those who had sent her critical correspondence as a result of her attendance at a Black Lives Matter protest).  That was the impetus for Sgt. Jeffrey Rothecker making the above post, which suggests that protesters be run over and then gives advise on how to best handle the aftermath of said murder attempt.

Wow.

Sgt. Rothecker was posting under a pseudonym, but the post was obviously traced back to him, and the results were predictable: The Sergeant was suspended.  In a statement, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said:

“I am outraged and disgusted by the post and have directed the SPPD to investigate. That investigation is currently underway.

“Chief Smith and I are committed to building strong, trusting relationships with the communities we serve.

“There is no room in the Saint Paul Police Department for employees who threaten members of the public. If the allegation is true, we will take the strongest possible action allowed under law.

As always, using social media to incite violence is always an absolutely terrible thing.  I suspect that Sgt. Rothecker believed himself to be at least somewhat protected, since he was using a pseudonym.  It has been said before, and clearly, needs to be said again: There is no such thing as anonymity or privacy online.  Things you say can always be tracked back to you, and clearly, that is exactly what happened here.

Efron

Zac Efron is grateful for Instagram and Martin Luther King Day

Yes, this is a celebrity tweet, not a political one, but it’s instructive nonetheless.

Just in case you have no conception of pop culture (and I don’t blame you if you don’t!), Zac Efron is a very popular actor who is appearing in the movie Dirty Grandpa, which is coming out soon.  Related to this is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which we celebrated this past Monday.  How, on Earth, are these two related, you ask?

Yeah…he definitely confused two things that have nothing to do with each other.  Maybe he was thinking that the African-American emoji that he used in response would make things better?  Because they didn’t:

 

Of course, there was also plenty of negative news about Efron’s tweet.  To his credit, Efron deleted the tweet and apologized:

A photo posted by Zac Efron (@zacefron) on

Okay, so what’s the lesson here?  Do not, ever, confuse serious and silly subjects in the same tweet. Efron somehow managed to make a very special American holiday about him, and specifically, his huge number of Instagram followers.  This, of course, is a blatant attempt to self aggrantize and use a very powerful American icon in a completely unrelated matter.  Making broad statements about diversity, inclusion and the power of Dr. King is one thing – but never, ever use sacred American holidays in an effort to promote yourself.  It’s terrible form.

Tweets and Consequences

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Social Media Logo Collage

What is a video view? Depends on who you are asking

When you are measuring the reach of an internet video, one of the most important question is an obvious one: How many views can that video rack up?

Okay, fair enough.  But, here’s a more important question: What counts as a video view?  It seems straight forward enough, but each platform has a different interpretation of what counts as a view, and this is something you must keep in mind when measuring the success of a video.

So, what are the definitions of a video view?

  • YouTube: How, exactly, YouTube counts a view is unknown.  However, a view has to be “requested,” and YouTube has security that stops a view from counting if it’s viewed for “mere seconds.” Autoplayed videos don’t count.
  • Facebook: Facebook has one of the loosest definitions of a video view.  A view counts as when a video is watched for at least three seconds, even if the video autoplays in the Facebook newsfeed. Autoplay will start on the desktop when 100% of the video is visible in the screen, but only 50% on a mobile device.
  • Instagram: Like Facebook, a view is counted when someone watches a video for three seconds.  Views are not accessible to the general public, however.
  • Snapchat: Very differently measured here – Snapchat video views are counted the instant a video loads.  However, a user has to tap on a video to get it to load.
  • Vine: Views (called Loops) are counted when an entire Vine is watched – usually six seconds.

So, there you have it! Hope this is helpful!

MTV Australia

MTV Australia makes racist post during Golden Globes

The Golden Globes were held this past Sunday, and like most award shows, they were not without their share of controversy.  One such example, however, was thanks to the Twitter account of MTV Australia.

The set-up: Actresses Eva Longoria and America Ferrera were presenting an award and joking about who they were, a reference to people who confuse Latina actresses.  At the same time, they were making fun of the Golden Globes Twitter account, which confused Ferrera with actress Gina Rodriguez in a December 2015 tweet.

So, while the actresses were making Hispanic-related jokes, MTV Australia tweeted out this:

MTV Australia Tweet

Ooof.  As you would expect, the internet was less than pleased.

MTV Australia did delete the tweet, and replaced it with this:

A spokesperson also said, “MTV’s tweet was in reference to the joke made by Eva Longoria and America Ferrera at the Golden Globes. We realise it was a poor joke and have taken the post down. We apologise for causing any offence and have decided to leave the humour to Ricky Gervais.”

If you take MTV Australia’s explanation at face value, then you can at least understand how such a mistake could have happened.  That being said, someone should have thought this one through .  It’s obvious to see how the tweet could have been interpreted as racist, and any major business (or politician!) needs to be extremely careful when they tweet about issues as weighty as race and racism.

Tweets and Consequences

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donald trump

Trump tweet implies Paris is in Germany

This is a bit of a weird one.  I say weird because I find myself in the unlikely position of interpreting a tweet sent by Donald Trump in a more positive light than others.  Yep.  That’s weird.

Anyways: Last week, in light of a series of crimes occurring in Paris, Donald Trump tweeted out the following:

 

As you can see, the tweet mentions Paris, then Germany.  A possible interpretation of this tweet is that Mr. Trump thinks that Paris IS IN Germany…which, of course, it isn’t.  And that is exactly how Trump’s opponents took the tweet:

 

The tweet also inspired a variety of news stories and briefly made #ParisIsInGermany a trending topic on Twitter.

My opinion?  This was a poorly worded tweet.  Donald Trump is many things, but I don’t think he – or anyone on his campaign – really thinks Paris is in Germany.  Germany has had a spike in violence, including as many as 80 sexual assaults on New Year’s Eve in Cologne, and that is likely what Mr. Trump was referring to.  However, the phrasing of the tweet – which is obviously condensed by the 140 character limitation – lent itself to the interpretation that Mr. Trump thinks Paris is in Germany.

The lesson here? Careful with how you tweet things.  Again, I don’t think the Trump campaign was saying that they think Paris is in Germany, but you always have to be careful with how you phrase your tweets.  As frequent readers of this blog know, you can do a lot of damage in 140 characters or less, and your political opponents certainly won’t give you the benefit of the doubt.  Don’t make anything easy for them.

John Bradford

Kansas State Representative shares racist meme on Facebook

Sharing offensive Facebook content is often a fast path towards instant condemnation.  That’s a lesson that Kansas State Representative John Bradford (R-Lansing) just learned the hard way.

Last week, Representative Bradford shared this picture on his Facebook page:

John Bradford Facebook Post

The picture originated from the Facebook group Conservative Country, which features a variety of conservative, anti-Democrat and anti-Obama memes.

As you can see, the meme is just horrendously racist.  Representative Bradford did remove the post, but obviously faced overwhelming criticism for making it in the first place. Said Carolyn Campbell, a member of the Kansas Board of Education, Democrat and African-American, “Representative Bradford’s actions make it very clear that we are far from reaching Dr. King’s dream of equality. I’m saddened and appalled that this is an individual who is making decisions that impact our children’s education system.”

When interviewed afterwards, Representative Bradford expressed regret for the post: “It was in bad taste and I regret it.”

Interestingly – and certainly not surprisingly – this isn’t the first time that Representative Bradford has been accused of racism.  Representative Bradford was actually one of nine Republican Representatives who filed a complaint against a Democratic Representative – Valdenia Winn – after Representative Winn accused Bradford, and others, of holding “racist, sexist, fear-mongering” attitudes based on their support of legislation which would repeal residential tuition rates, at state universities, for illegal immigrants.

Clearly, those accusations will now be seen in an entirely new light!

Tweets and Consequences

Like the blog?  Get the book!  Tweets and Consequences: 60 Social Media Disasters in Politics and How You Can Avoid A Career-Ending Mistake is now available on Amazon for purchase or download.