Getting browned off: picking at low-hanging fruit

Another Jamaican politician fell foul of public opinion over use of social media. Yesterday, Arnaldo Brown, a minister of state in the ministry of foreign affairs, appeared to post details on Twitter of his high score in an online game, Fruit Pop. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/85d/55521353/files/2015/01/img_0624.pngNothing wrong with that: achievements are achievements. Nothing wrong with that: private activity is private…until it’s made public. Compare this to the British MP, Nigel Mills, who was caught recently playing another popular online game, Candy Crush, for two hours during a House of Commons Committee sitting. He apologized, unreservedly.

My initial reaction was to see parallels with the recent Instagram non-story about Minister Hanna, and her picture walking on a beach in a bikini. It’s normal. However, it becomes abnormal if reactions get testy. I think Ms. Hanna just let it blow by. Once you start a ‘conversation’ it’s not yours to control. I’m not sure politicians get that about social media. You have few special rights or privilege.

However, self praise is often no recommendation, and can often lead to a little rancour.

Unsurprisingly, given that the Jamaican minister had a little flap some months ago about running up J$ million bills to be paid out of government revenue, for his use of government-issued cell phones, the Twitter hunt dogs let loose, quickly, jabbing and jibing about the activity and if it were a good use of time. The initial responses from the minister’s account engaged the critics, suggesting that they had nothing better to do and that they should take care how they use social space. It didn’t seem a diplomatic approach, but there you have it.

The banter raged on. Some were nice in their jibes; some were nasty. Hashtags were created, to corral the comments–in keeping with how Twitter works. The responses came back from the minister. Somehow, The Gleaner pounced on the exchanges and put out a ‘latest news’ item covering the Twitter activities, and citing how the minister was being mocked in some of the exchanges. The Gleaner was not diplomatic, either, but that’s not its job.

Word then came out–through a post on the minister’s Facebook page–that the minister’s Twitter account had been ‘compromised’ and had been deleted. At the time, my initial reaction to that was to wonder if the Facebook account had also been compromised. Had it been me, I would have chosen another medium to broadcast the change, if only to deal with obvious concerns like mine. But, it wasn’t me. However, that speaks to the realisation of the spread and speed of social media.

Techies were quick to point out that, if the account had been hacked then the owner deleting it couldn’t happen so simply. Some skeptics began to wonder what was really afoot.

The banter raged on, now a little one-sided. Some commentators had indicated that they and others had been blocked from the minister’s Twitter account. That’s normal when someone takes offence on Twitter. It doesn’t stop adverse comments, just its source, to a degree. But, it can be a magnet for more comments.

Much of the engagement was light hearted, with a good tinge of cynicism, harking back to earlier issues about phone use and running up large bills.

The minister had indicated in his defence of his phone use that roaming charges had tripped him up. Many took that to suggest that he wasn’t savvy about how some of the technology works, and therefore could be again walking blindly. He’d indicted that he’d be taking more care over his usage. Was this a lapse? The interest was normal.

However, one could be excused for fearing another set of cyber attacks. They’ve been much in the recent news, and Jamaican entities were also targeted, including 10 government departments. Whether state-sponsored acts or that of annoying and annoyed individuals, this could have represented a bigger threat.

Later, <a href="″>the minister responded to the Gleaner news with a letter, which the paper printed. He explained that his 4 year-old daughter had been using his iPad and the high score result had been posted inadvertently by the child, while trying to get back to the game. Well, that is compromising. But, no hacker on the loose. His reply was a little testy, and had a hint of snideness in it, but it was his chance to air his frustrations and that’s not surprising. I trust, the letter was unedited.

I’m not going beyond what I see. Some will wonder if that reason is a cover. Embarrassed people may not handle ridicule well. I hope the child has had it explained that more care is needed when playing online games.

Parents, like me, saw red flags. Your devices should not become your children’s playthings: it often creates problems, big and small. Bills run up on iTunes. Juice and stickiness all over the device. Comprising activity. It’s an avoidable problem. Most adults know the problems, but do they avoid the risks? People look at politicians for the quality of their decisions.

But, just a minute. If the account had been compromised by the child, not a hacker, who was posting the replies on the account? Children are precocious these days, but these were not the writings of a child. Minister Brown was back in the frame.

An old adage states that, when in a hole, stop digging. I got the sense that the shovel was being overworked.

I coined a word last night: insoup. I gave it a quick definition: to create unnecessary problem (for oneself) with obvious consequences, eg ‘He was insouped by unauthorized use of…’ I could see the ingredients for a thick soup being assembled.

I would have thought that if you don’t use a social media account much–as seemed to be the case with the minister, judging by posts–then, it would be easy to spot errant activity. If the child made the first misstep, and no hacking went on, then the subsequent activity was by child or parent. There was no need to delete the account. The authorized user was in control. Am I missing something?