Politicians and Social Media: a catalogue of cluelessness

I’ll be in Perth on 27–28 October for PodCamp, the New Media Community UnConference, where I’m presenting a session on Social Media and the Federal Election.

Screenshot of John Howard MySpace, 18 October 2007

While my first visit to Perth will be fun enough, I’m also enjoying researching my presentation. Australian politicians really don’t have a clue about this stuff.

Starting at the top of the food chain, John Howard’s MySpace profile is a disaster. The screenshot (right) records how it looked this morning — with a a broken rectangle obscuring part of the photo and adverts for the Labor party. Click for the full-size version.

MySpace is the world’s largest and best-known social media operation. Yet this profile doesn’t have anything to offer apart from a recycled media release. No blog entries. Not even any personal information beyond Howard’s age — reminding MySpace’s relatively youthful audience that he’s “old”.

How could John Howard’s personal profile not even mention cricket? If a profile contains even less information than we already know, why would we bother reading it? Why would we bother coming back?

At the other end of the spectrum — in more ways than one! — is Australian Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett.

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Facebook bans breastfeeding photos

Social networking website Facebook is boldly taking the Internet into the 19th Century by banning photos of breastfeeding as “obscene”.

Look, I know Facebook is American, and America is (a) a Puritan nation at heart and (b) pig-ignorant of the fact that the other 96% of the world’s population might think differently. I mean, their own president can’t tell the difference between APEC and OPEC, between Austria and Australia. When he’s standing in it. But quite frankly, a society which thinks photos of mothers feeding their children are “obscene” has deep, deep problems.

And not just that your president is dumb as a stump-post.

The protest group Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!(Official petition to Facebook) has almost 8000 members already. And while I generally don’t pay much attention to the needs of the breeders, this one I’ve joined.