Whose tweets are these anyway? (What happens when election campaign tweets get deleted?)


Today, there was a bit of a flurry of tweets after the official Twitter account by SPD candidate for chancelor, Peer Steinbrück, sent this tweet:

deleted tweet

… and then deleted it. (Screenshot from Politwoops)

Because it can be hard to read, the tweet says: “Wann hat sich ein Kanzlerkandidat irgendeiner Partei schon mal für Netzpolitik interessiert! Wann? cc @pottblog” (translation: When did any party’s candidate for chancellor have any interest in net politics before? When?)

In general, deleting tweets isn’t considered good style. Fair enough.

Before I continue, full disclosure: I once was an advisor to the federal youth campaign for SPD, back in 2009, and as a student job I worked on the SPD 2005 campaign as well. I don’t have any business relationship with the party now.

So, now that that’s out of the way, I think there are several aspects to look at this.

One, overall etiquette. Should tweets ever be deleted (if so, when is it acceptable), and if they are, should it be marked? I tend to go a pretty pragmatic way: If something’s posted accidentally, delete the tweet or say it in the next tweet. This, and that’s important to stress, doesn’t serve to hide the information, but to help prevent the spreading of information that wasn’t intended to be published. In other words, both the deletion and the clarifying statement serve (IMHO) as a statement of intention: “please don’t spread this, it was an honest mistake and not intended to be published”. If something’s tweeted on purpose but simply wrong, never delete but own up. Also, be aware that no tweets stays deleted, ever, because what’s out there is out there.

Two, if something is tweeted, like in this case obviously, accidentally on one account but was meant for another. (According to Twitwoops, the fantastic services that archives tweets deleted from politicians’ accounts, the tweet in question was deleted within half a minute.) If, in other words, something that was meant to be a tweet from the personal account of a member of the election campaign team that has access to the candidate’s twitter account as is normal and as it should have, then what’s the best next step? Does a tweet, even if by technical/human error sent from a candidate’s account, count as “their tweet”? Frankly I don’t think so.

Here’s the original tweet, from the owner, and surely it’s harmless enough in this context:

Tobias Nehren (Fison) on Twitter

So, I don’t know what the best practice is. But I do know that a bit of common sense helps put this things in context. In my experience as someone who pretty much posts stuff online all day and who’s also been heavily involved in election campaigns where things tend to move very fast, more often than not there’s no intention to hide things but simple, honest mistakes. We’re all human.



Just a brief personal note: I’ll be on vacation for a few weeks. The last few months were a blast, and also pretty exhausting, what with the German elections* and atoms&bits Festival (jump to my posts). It was a really interesting few weeks or months, and I learned a lot. But boy, am I looking forward to a bit of downtime. But not before a very brief and very subjective view back.

The election results, frankly, suck. We (Jusos, Panorama3000 and I) put a lot of effort into the campaign and I think we did a good job. But I can understand everyone who’s frustrated with the politics of the last four years, and voters have made it clear that they didn’t want politics to continue the same way for another four years. Both major parties got the worst results in 60 years, the three small parties got record highs: This clearly is a signal of changing times. Where exactly things are going we’ll need to see. I worked with the SPD (the equivalent of the US democrats) in the campaign because I believe that they’re a really important force in our society – and I’m saying that despite my total and utter disagreement with their recent internet politics. So of course I found it somewhat frustrating that the liberal FDP gained so many votes and Germany is going to be governed by a conservative-liberal coalition of CDU and FDP. (And no, I don’t believe it’s good for the economy either.) So now I’m hoping that the SPD will draw the right conclusions and regain both their strength and – in the next elections – also government power.

atoms&bits Festival on the other hand was a total success and I had a great time. We had planned on getting together the communities around coworking, DIY, OpenEverything, participatory politics and art, and it worked out great. We saw a lot of happy faces, inspired (and inspiring) talks, as well as connections being made across these topical boundaries. Also, I had a great time with the Geeks On A Plane, who kindly invited a few of us to join their dinner and in turn joined us at the atoms&bits party at Betahaus.

All that said, some great weeks. But now I’m off for a little while to marry off a friend and go on a little backpacking trip. So if I don’t respond to your calls or emails, you know why. See you in a few weeks!

  • Full disclosure: I was an adviser to the online youth election campaign of SPD/Jusos. That was a paid gig. This post expresses my personal views only.

My Two Cents on the German Pirate Party


They're Behind You

Lots of discussions about the Pirate Party (PP) lately, and their role in German politics. With federal elections coming up in late September and some very salient web issues like data retention and planned legislation to block (supposed) child abuse sites with very little judicial oversight, the PP is in an interesting position.

A), they’re still tiny by numbers of members, but growing fast in relative terms.

B), the established parties have been struggling with net politics. Besides genuine differing political positions, there’s also some weird lop-sided hardliner rhetoric going on that I suppose makes it hard for regular members of parliament to really see what’s going on online and behind the scenes. (Admittedly, a fair bit of technical background is needed to really understand how the web works.) Add a good measure of generation gap and some fights between different wings of the parties and you get an idea.

(Basically, Conservatives have shown support for IP blocking lists; Social Democrats have by large majority supported the legislation, too, although there has been a small, but strong resistance within the party; the Green party been divided, too, with a strong voice against this planned legislation, but a lot of members of parliament withholding their votes. And so on. Opposition in parliament, online community (including yours truly), and most experts agree that the legislation will cause much more damage than it will do good.) An online petition has gathered more than 134.000 votes against the legislation.

C), the Pirate Party is a strong and very vocal opponent of said legislation, and they’re getting plenty of media attention right now as a new player in the political spectrum, partly pro and hyped, partly disregarded as a simple candidate for protest vote. They have a clear position on this issue – a clear advantage.

So the Pirate Party is under some pressure to evolve from an obscure single issue/protest party to – well, we’ll see to what they’ll evolve to – in very short time. What is it going to be, a year from now? That’s really the question here. Is the PP going to be a once-off single issue / protest vote? Are they going to become the representative of a whole cluster (maybe even a generation?) of web-savvy folks who feel under-represented by the established parties?

Sometimes the PP is compared to the Green party in their earliest stages: About to grow from single issue to a more all-encompassing, more mainstream party that applies a new kind of thinking to well-known fields of politics. Can the PP be this kind of phenomenon? I don’t know. But here’s what worries me and what intrigues me.

First, I strongly welcome the Pirate Party because they give voice, and a point of focus, to some very important points of our lives which have long since grown into the online sphere as well. And they’ve been doing so in a way that the established parties couldn’t because they don’t have the grown structures (political, personal, demographic etc) that the other parties have. They started with a clean slate. No matter what the outcome will be, the emergence of the PP has sent an important signal: There’s a large, and growing, and well-organized and active group of citizens out there that can be activated around issues. And they’re increasingly political. In this sense it doesn’t even matter much (to me personally at least) if the Pirate Party is going to last and evolve into a party that’s here to stay, or if they’ll be absorbed by another party. (On the European level, the PP member of the European Parliament has joined the Green group.) Even if the PP dissolved after the elections, they already have built a certain legacy.

Second, the PP has been trying to stay outside the traditional left/right spectrum of party politics, trying not to get bogged down by the distinction. Motivated, I guess, by the assumption that issues like freedom of speech and expression, like the fight against censorship, transcends the left-right axis. And maybe they do. But then again, they don’t.

In my opinion a party cannot not have to choose between left and right in some way or another. Even if they’re trying their best to stay out of this, trying not to be pigeon-holed, someone will pull them back in. In other words: If they don’t choose sides, someone will do it for them. Because some more radical group will eventually try to hijack the party and push their own agenda. No matter if that agenda will be left or right, it will become the Pirate Party’s, and in the worst case all this will happen under the shield of no-left-no-right policy that they’re trying to apply. It might just be under their radar. Next thing you know the PP is pushing for legislation that some obscure right-winger has introduced as part of his larger hidden agenda.

(As David Weinberger pointed out at Reboot11 (video), you can either stick with the assumption that every tool is neutral, not morally charged. A knife’s a knife. It’s the person holding it that makes the difference. Right? But that, says Weinberger, would be a bad idea. Because in fact a lot of tools have morals written into them. Nuclear bomb = neutral? Hardly. It sucks, badly. It’s a technology with death and destruction embedded in its very structure. The internet, on the other hand, is something that we can shape ourselves. It’s one of those tools that, given the right handling, can be a tool of great positive moral implications.)

My point being that a party in today’s political system has to pick a place, and a political direction. Right now, that includes a decision on the left/right scale. Personally, I hope the Pirate Party makes a few smart decision that include clearly stating that ultra right wingers (and nazi sympathizers) aren’t welcome. Because quite simply, even if these right wingers, too, support some of the basic goals of the Pirate Party that I would also support, I will always choose not to vote for someone sharing a bed with them. Like a tool, a party is an inherently moral construct. And a party that could be hi-jacked by nazis would, as Weinberger called it, suck.

That said, I’m curious to see how the PP evolves and which path they choose. They’re focusing on some incredibly important issues, and they’re in a position to tackle them without any historical legacies bogging them down. So this should be interesting.

Full disclosure: I’m an adviser to the online youth election campaign of SPD/Jusos. This is a paid gig. This post expresses my personal views only. It’s not part of the election campaign, just my personal thoughts.

Photo by Jonathan_W (Creative Commons)

Update 15 August: My contact form has been being spammed badly, which led me to switch WordPress plugins. The switch led to some issues with the comment sections on this site, too. In short: it seems impossible right now to post a comment because there’s a broken CAPTCHA that seems not to be displayed correctly. (Haven’t figured out why yet.) Still, since I got an email with a hint to these technical problems and comment about my blog post, I don’t want to keep it from you. Thanks Jan H. for your email – I’ll post your reply below because it’s valuable feedback. And I’ll try to sort out my technical problems asap. My apologies for the inconveniences.

Update 15 August (continued): Here’s the rebuttal by Jan Huwald (thanks Jan!)

Update 18 August: Contact form trouble seems to be under control. Moved Jan’s comments down to the comment section.

Super endorsements: Comic characters for Obama


Somewhat odd, but here you go: Comic character Savage Dragon endorses Obama, or so says the New York TimesThe Moment blog:

The celebrity endorsements have begun! Savage Dragon, a superhero and police officer whose adventures are published by Image Comics, is throwing his hat in the ring for Barack Obama. The news is blared across the cover of issue No. 137, with the green-skinned hero dressed up for the occasion in a black jacket, crisp white shirt and striped red tie.

Savage Dragon endorses Obama, img courtesy NYTimes / Copyright Erik Larsen Image: Copyright Erik Larsen

Do you know examples of other comic characters endorsing presidential candidates? Please share in the comments…

Please note: While I’m writing this, the Image Comics website website seems to be down and on the Savage Dragon site I couldn’t find a hint to any of this; however, I have no reason not to trust the NYTimes on this one.

Ameritocracy: Collaborative Fact-Checking


AmeritocracyIf there’s one thing the internet is pretty good at, then it must be crunching lots of info by having a lot of folks look at said info. Call it crowdsourcing or collaboration, if you need a great many eyes to look at stuff, and a lot of opinions, the web is the place to go. So here comes Ameritocracy, a community-based, collaborative fact-checking site.

How does it work? Users submit statements made by politicians, pundits and the like, other users (aka the community) puts in their two cents of background or opinion (hopefully facts, too) they have on those statements. A reputation system helps separate the wheat from the chaff.

As Ameritocracy describe it:

The core features of Ameritocracy are adding statements (made by a person or organization) and assessing statements. For example, if you hear Jane Doe say something on tv that you find questionable, you can submit that statement to the site to see what the community has to say about it, or you can add your own assessment. Members can then rate Jane Doe’s statement for credibility and relevancy, add their own assessments, or post a comment. From this, Jane Doe will develop a reputation based on the community ratings, and you and your sources will develop a positive reputation so long as no one identifies your submission as a misquote or deliberately inaccurate information. The goal is to get a few different perspectives for each statement, so anyone looking to know more about a statement can get a broader picture and make their own assessment.

Sounds like a solid plan to me. Any platform that helps bring more transparency into political processes can just be good. If it harnesses the intelligence of the network, all the better.

More info? IPDI‘s Julie Germany interviewed Ameritocracy co-founder Porter Bayne. The team behind Ameritocracy blogs and twitters, too.

(via Planblog)

Update: Want to check out Ameritocracy first hand? The Ameritrocracy team was so nice to provide my readers with a bunch of invites to the close beta. With the invite code “wavingcat” (one word, all lower case) you can sign up here.