Mischievous Australians derail PM Abbott’s YouTube channel over ‘deceit’

tony abbott youtubeAustralian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had his YouTube channel suspended for eight hours last night when his latest video, ‘Delivering on our promises’ was considered in violation of the site’s strict deceptive content policy.

What Mr Abbott had actually said in the clip was exactly what you would expect from any overly confident man in his position, namely his and his party’s policies on immigration and the environment were working. Strongly right wing and considered psychopathic by his opponents, Tony Abbott is not the most popular of Australians so could this simply be a case of mischief?

Essentially yes. Viewers had alerted YouTube to the video’s content and reported it as spam. Perhaps YouTube’s non-Australian anti-spam team were not quite as familiar with his prime ministerial features as he would have liked. The problem was spotted and the video was soon back online.

However, the fact is that this is just one of the countless examples of politicians getting social media wrong.

At the time of writing Delivering on our promises only had nine thousand views. How many views would it have if it hadn’t been taken down? How can politicians improve their image? The most popular clip of Tony Abbott involves him saying nothing and staring hatefully at his interviewer. Not a vote winner.

Ever since the British shadow chancellor Ed Balls wrote his own unfortunate name into his Twitter feed and received thousands of retweets, it’s been clear politicians have never quite had their finger on the pulse of social media. It doesn’t make a lot of sense; social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, are popular with the over 30s. It’s not as if it’s the reserve of the young. But in the hands of politicians it becomes the baseball cap on backwards of the 21st century.

Nothing is more boring than an MP’s Twitter feed. Nothing is more cringe inducing than a mayor’s Facebook plea for ‘likes’. The problem, somewhat ironically, is fear of offending. Politicians are wiped blank by PRs and media gurus and the entire point of social media is self-expression. But they can’t possibly show they have no time or interest in putting themselves online or else they’d be seen as out of touch. As soon as they do they look like a pre-Profumo scandal minister for overseas development. It’s a difficult balance but it is possible. British labour MP Tom Watson has managed it without fuss. Compare his 33,000 tweets with David Cameron’s 674. It’s as if someone doesn’t want to be seen.

Graeme Swanson is a writer and journalist.