Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s office has said that it will handover both the twitter handles — @PMOIndia and @PMOIndiaArchive to Narendra Modi. “The Twitter account @PMOIndia has been secured by Twitter and they are assisting in the handover of the same to this office to be available to the incoming PMO administration along with its (existing) followers,” Singh’s office said in a statement late Wednesday. However, the changes are yet to me made.
BJP got a little edgy yesterday when it saw the handle @PMOIndia – the twitter account of nation’s Prime Minister renamed to @PMOIndiaArchive. It was a reasonable reaction from the party, as many would expect that the new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi would get to access that 1.24 million follower-rich Twitter account.
Though, UPA Prime Minister’s Office had something different in mind. As part of one of the final acts of the outgoing government, the 2-year old account was put to a cold storage. The new Prime Minister — who is arguably the most active social media user, was provided with a reset account of @PMOIndia, with no tweets, and more importantly 1.24 million fewer followers.
Isn’t @PMOIndia for communication from the Prime Minister’s Office? An institutional handle which should continue seamlessly. Surprised!
— Nirmala Sitharaman (@nsitharaman) May 20, 2014
The party seemed to make sound in unison. And rightly so, since it is weird that UPA was handling the account all along instead of Prime Minister Office. A senior member of the BJP’s IT team said, “Once a digital asset is created by the PMO, it is a national asset. It cannot be dealt with in such an arbitrary manner and we have taken this up with Twitter and the PMO”.
Continuity in governance and all government assets is the hallmark of Indian constitution. @PMOIndia is a National digital asset. 1/3
— BJP (@BJP4India) May 20, 2014
To get to the bottom of this, the RTI Act books were flipped, and Dr. Singh’s ‘former’ media adviser Pankaj Pachauri came forward to share his wisdom. “all our official communications are being archived according to the RTI Act. Copyrights and control remain with the office”.
Just to explain more for those who missed the earlier tweets – pic.twitter.com/y3VxcSctrj
— Pankaj Pachauri (@PankajPachauri) May 20, 2014
However, this all mess has given rise to a very important question. Who exactly owns a govt run Twitter account? When David Cameron became the PM of United Kingdom, while he was given a new account, he got to keep all his existing tweets and followers. Another case in point is that Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev have continued their own twitter profiles.
Jon Worth has elaborated this on his blog. As he points out, the problem is that this is perhaps the first time most govt. are dealing with anything similar. We are yet to understand how to evaluate these followers. Did they follow the account to show admiration to a person, or his/her position?
The sound thing the outgoing govt. should have done is – delete all the tweets, perhaps archive it on a website, and handover the account to the new Prime Minister. Alternatively, Narendra Modi could have decided to tweet from his personal account.
Twitter India declined to say anything on this, citing it as a personal affair.