Panicky Capitol Hill staffers are scrambling to make their Twitter accounts private after tracking site Legistormlast week debuted a feature compiling the public tweets of members of Congress and their aides.
The airing of these sometimes embarrassing messages has led to plenty of red faces, irritated bosses and a purging of aides’ racier tweets.
Two years ago, then-Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) showed how easy it was to inadvertently send a naughty tweet to a public list. So let’s call this newest episode another “teaching moment” about the perils of mixing politics and social media.
Most of the Twitter accounts were already public, and the Legistorm tool, called StormFeed, linked the accounts (many held by twentysomethings) to their users’ Hill employers.
“I really feel like this was a public service,” says Legistorm president Jock Friedly. “Right now, it’s a pain because people on the Hill are having to deal with temporary fallout, readjusting and having conversations about what’s appropriate. But it’s a good reminder that what you tweet is public.”
And as it turns out, many staffers’ concerns were warranted. A search of Legistorm’s collection of their tweets — some of which came from accounts recently made private and others from those who shockingly hadn’t yet closed off access — reveal congressional staffers posting all manner of office-inappropriate stuff.
For example, if you’d like to know who’s searching for the hair of the dog in the Capitol complex, just check the tweets.
“Did I mention I’m violently hungover?” one Republican House staffer complained. “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I wouldn’t wish hungover flying on my worst enemy,” wrote a House committee staffer.
Oh, and then there’s the profanity. F-bombs abound. “Well f***, in a few brackets two of my final four teams are out,” complained a Senate committee staffer. One Republican House staffer retweeted this affirmation: “Life is so short, just do what the f*** makes you happy.”
And the parade of the-boss-would-be-horrified tweets gets worse, but we’ll spare our readers’ delicate sensibilities.
Staffers have long tread dangerous territory when it comes to social media: Many identify themselves in bios as employees of members of Congress or committees, and yet their tweets are a blend of work-related topics and irreverent (even NSFW) personal messages.
Enter StormFeed, which aggregates the Twitter feeds of about 5,000 members, current and former staff, and lobbyists. About 2,000 of those are staffers, and about half of those have made their accounts private — including hundreds since StormFeed debuted.
A storm indeed.
Friedly explains that beyond exposing the seamier side of Hill aides, the tool is helpful to understanding how Congress functions. “It’s useful to find out what’s on their minds, what they’re talking about, what they’re thinking,” he said.
Just maybe not everything they’re thinking.