THE BLOG

Youth Police and Crime Commissioner Paris Brown Falls Foul of Twitter

10/04/2013 13:39 BST | Updated 09/06/2013 10:12 BST

The latest news is that Paris Brown has resigned from her post following criticism of messages she posted on Twitter. Twitter is a great leveller. Whether you're a banker or a couturier, a hairdresser or a lawyer, if you use your presence in this very public forum unwisely then you're going to end up with egg on your face. Whilst numerous public figures have suffered this fate in recent times (Sally Bercow expressing her opinions on Lord Mcalpine, for example...), it seems that in spite of the public naming and shaming of those who overstep the Twitter line, it still doesn't seem to sink in that the term 'personal' can never really be applied to a Twitter account.

The most recent casualty of the Twitter tightrope is Paris Brown, the newly appointed Youth Police and Crime Commissioner (the first person to be employed in the post), who seems to have slipped easily into that belief of untouchability that many of us assume the internet brings. Unfortunately, she couldn't have been more wrong. Twitter content posted by 17 year old Paris Brown two months ago - offensive remarks about all the usual no go areas for public figures, such as recreational drink and drugs - have suddenly come to light, triggering calls for her to resign from the £15,000 a year job. Unfortunately for Paris Brown, some of her tweets (all of which have now been deleted and the account taken down) apparently had racist and homophobic undertones, a big no for someone in such a public position, even if the tweeter is arguably slightly too young to know better than to be reckless with that kind of offensive language.

Ann Barnes, the recently appointed Kent Police and Crime Commissioner has defended the teenager, saying that she should be allowed to learn from, and move on from, the incident after Brown made a rather tearful public apology to the media yesterday. Barnes' attempts to defend the teen seemed to revolve around the idea that 'everyone does it' and Barnes said, "Celebrities, politicians, even journalists, often do silly things, horrible things and they hide behind a press release, they apologise, they are forgiven by everybody, it is accepted and they move on. Why is that different for Paris, if she has accepted that what she did was unacceptably bad and she is learning from it?"

Barnes also defended the recruitment process that resulted in Brown being appointed to the role, stating that the requisite due diligence had been carried out. However, she admitted that officials hadn't checked Brown's social media profile before appointing her to the position - a practice that is becoming increasingly widespread by employers when considering whether or not to offer an interviewee a position, and which Barnes admitted might have been a good idea on this occasion.

If you're old enough to purchase a pint, particularly if you work in more sensitive sectors such as law, the humiliation of Paris Brown is a prime example of the risks we take professionally when tweeting from a personal account.