Tweet Wars: How humourless Jobcentre Plus was humiliated by bolshie bloggers

People queuing outside Jobcentre Plus. Pic courtesy: The Guardian

People queuing outside Jobcentre Plus. Pic courtesy: The Guardian

For the last year an extraordinary war has been going on between the Department of Work and Pensions and  some of Britain’s  tweeters and bloggers.

The battle has been over the centuries old right to free speech, to send up self-seeking bureaucrats and insult and satirize government ministers and the heads of private companies profiting from public services. This example is very modern, the battleground is Twitter rather than over some pamphlet.

 The row began over a year ago when the Department of Work and Pensions used Twitter’s complaint procedure to lodge a trademark complaint against @UKJCP, a satirical  account attacking Jobcentre Plus.

The application came from one Jon Woodcock, calling himself brand and information manager – his actual title is senior public information publishing manager – objecting to the site using the Jobcentre Plus trademark.

 What was extraordinary was his reasoning. I quote from the document :

 “The @UKJCP account has been set up with deliberate and malicious intent to devalue and criticise the work of Jobcentre Plus. In addition, there are a number of rude and potentially libelous tweets aimed at UK government, elected politicians and the heads of large private sector organisations who are committed to working with government on reducing unemployment.”

Not surprisingly Twitter quite rightly rejected such a request.

But the ministry came back – this time I am told using a discreet phone call – specifically objecting to what are called PTs – parody tweets – which were frankly taking the Mickey out of Jobcentre Plus – but where quite clearly linked to information that showed it couldn’t possibly have come from them. Some were true. One was a link to an article showing Jobcentre Plus backed sending claimants to work at strip clubs and for porn film companies – providing they didn’t participate- which I ‘m afraid is correct.

There has been storm of protest from bloggers and tweeters who used Twitter’s appeal process to overturn the decision. The  account was restored on February 8 after ten days.

An official spokesperson from the DWP Press Office told me :

“The changes we’re making to the welfare system to ensure that work pays are important to many people, and we work hard to make sure claimants have access to correct factual information. 

 “We alerted twitter to an account that was falsely sending out tweets claiming to have been published by our official account. It’s for twitter to decide what action is appropriate – we have not asked for any account to be taken down or suspended.”

 An official spokesperson for @UKJCP told me:”I am sure @DWPgovuk has no basis to complain about anyone who does a Parody of a Parody Tweet …Some of what was tweeted by me after 9/1/14 was focused on letting followers know what DWP and Jobcentre rights they have. I take the view that the DWP inspired suspension of @UKJCP was not only to censor Freedom of Expression and criticism of the Government but an attempt to suppress the sharing of rights based information.”

What is interesting is that I have been told that NO minister – not even Iain Duncan Smith – asked for Jobcentre Plus  to close down this Twitter account,. The idea that ministers, MPs, and anyone running a big private business should be immune from rude comments or libelous views seems to have been taken by managers at Jobcentre Plus’s HQ in Sheffield

Sorry DWP there is a very long tradition in this country from John Wilkes and Liberty to Hogarth,Steve Bell and comedians like Mark Thomas, to poke fun and be rude and tear the governing classes apart. David Cameron is regularly portrayed by Steve Bell as a condom ( he doesn’t like it and has complained to no avail to The Guardian).

If Mps and big bosses don’t like it they should take out a writ and sue. But they know that under the coalition the cost of a writ has risen to £1600 and legal fees are phenomenal. And they know claimants aren’t worth suing because they could never recover their money. That’s why they would love the government to resort to censorship, particularly if they haven’t even asked them to do it.

19 thoughts on “Tweet Wars: How humourless Jobcentre Plus was humiliated by bolshie bloggers

  1. Reblogged this on Vox Political and commented:
    I’ve been waiting for this one for a few days now, since the estimable Mr Hencke told me he was working on it.
    I took a bit of flak a few days ago, for suggesting that it was ‘people power’ that got @UKJCP reinstated; here’s the proof.
    Enjoy!

    Like

  2. David have you seen the new transparency initiative of govt departments including DWP. They say it’s to hold those departments to account
    Ok here is the latest stat from DWP
    Customer satisfaction of DWP services to date

    81%.

    Wtf ? Benefit sanction targets Atos WCA deaths Bedroom suicides foodbanks Capita corruption …and apparently we think DWP are doing a grand job.
    Or..DWP has a death wish ..

    Like

    • they lie all the time about the figures , I sometimes wonder how many tories had a whipping boy to do there homework must have been most of them because when it comes to numbers they have no idea , 81% satisfied what crap

      Like

    • “Our Mission
      We are bridging the gap between the Christian world and Conservatives

      We are Inspiring Christians to go into public life, equipping them when they get there

      We are being ‘salt and light’ in British Politics

        

      Our Values
      We are passionate followers of Jesus Christ

      We are diverse, we’re from different backgrounds and denominations

      We are believers in prayer, the Holy Bible and prayer are foundation to all we do

      We are united in loving God and loving our neighbour

      We are angry about injustice and suffering

      We are committed to high integrity in public life.”

      This is from Conservative Christian Fellowship who have just heavily criticised that priest who condemned welfare reform
      Hmm anyone notice some discrepancies there in their ” values “

      Like

  3. You will be aware that, in the last few days, Google/Blogger have taken down the valuable whistleblowing blog of former Jersey Health Minister, Stuart Syvret, pursuant to a perverse court judgement obtained by the Jersey Data Protection Commissioner in collusion with four very shady types.

    Stuart is appealing and is making arrangements to have his blog mirrored elsewhere, but, in the meantime, some of your readers might like to check this out:
    http://photopol.com/ss/censored.html

    Rath ar an obair.

    Like

  4. Pingback: JCP PR fail, Labour MP facepalm and the economics of the 1% | alittleecon

  5. Interesting.

    It is said that there is NO Official sanction for this at ministerial level.

    Hmm. If I remember clearly it goes liked this: Minister calls in Senior Civil Servant – or calls other minister. Suggests meeting off premises. When there suggests course of action [all done off the record and off official premises so no record kept] said messenger repeats and suddenly you have actions like this popping up.

    The only questions to ask in these circumstances is who gains from this? Unofficially of course.

    Like

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