Over the past couple of days, the London Organising Commitee of the Olympic Game’s (LOCOG) official guidelines for social media policy has emerged publicly. There have been some reports relating to the Olympic Gamesmakers, the voluntary labour force who are essential to the smooth running of the event this summer, and their use of social media. That being, not to use it. Especially if they are going to document their personal stories as gamesmakers in a journalistic way.
Although the document is apparently shared on a volunteer-only training site, so difficult to access, the BBC, the official media broadcaster for London 2012, reported that it in the dos and don’t section, the volunteer’s were asked:
- not to disclose their location
- not to post a picture or video of Locog backstage areas closed to the public
- not to disclose breaking news about an athlete
- not to tell their social network about a visiting VIP, eg an athlete, celebrity or dignitary.
- not to get involved in detailed discussion about the Games online
- but they can retweet or pass on official London 2012 postings.
I don’t kn0w about you, but when I’m told not to do something, I can’t help but see what would happen if I do. So I managed to get a copy of the document to see for myself – and because there is now a ream of blog posts that are declaring that LOCOG and the international olympic committee (IOC) don’t “get it.” To assume that there is something to ‘get’ is particularly naive, and tends to come from those who are already social media evangelists wondering why the Olympic Games might not want to join in on their own, rather successful, digital and social web revolution. You see, the IOC are not the same as you and I, they know exactly what they are doing when they employ a communication and social media strategy to their game-play – it is about control, it is about access and as always, it is about protecting the stakeholders – the sponsors, the corporate media and themselves. They could not be seen letting a measly volunteer breaking a story that would be saved for their major American sponsors NBC, who’s media right revenue pay for over half of the costs outright. This is their response to concerns expressed ahead of the 2009 Olympic congress in Copenhagen and respond they have.
So here is what not to do (or indeed, what might be quite useful to do if you are thinking about becoming a citizen journalist during the games.)
Over-sharing London 2012 activities or information
From the document:
“It’s understandable that if you are proud or excited about something that has happened while you’re volunteering, you will want to tell people about it. But there are groups of people outside of LOCOG who are paid to scour the internet and target information about particular organisations. Their intentions could be to breach our security, or to affect our reputation, and as you might expect London 2012 could quite easily become such a target as our profile greatly increases up to and during the Games.”
This is a reason not to share information. Because there are boggy men out there who are out there to tarnish or critique the olympic games, or even try and make their own money of the back of their movement (oh my god, where they meant to be a boost to the *entire* economy, not just their own??). The language used implies that you are part of the larger family, that you are the movement by becoming a games maker. The good guys. When really, the corporate communication team is more concerned about keeping to a uniformed message, a narrative of games time, a history that will be remembered collectively. There are many other things that happen outside and within the games experience that will not be reported on, stories that may not necessary target the Olympics but will illustrate that the world isn’t as one-dimensional as corporate communications makes out to be.
They’ve even given an example of what you can tweet. Which is nice of them. This really begs the question now about ownership of twitter accounts, and more philosophically, who owns experiences in these surroundings?
Getting on your soapbox
“We all have opinions that we like to share with our friends and family, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Just remember that when posting your comments online it is exactly the same as someone overhearing you in a public place, so please stop and think before posting your comment. Also if people know you are a Games Maker volunteer they could associate what you say with London 2012, or even interpret it as LOCOG’s opinion.”
If you are a known games maker, you are to direct the criticism directed at you to the ‘contact us’ form on the the London 2012 site – a bit like speaking your brains, a bit like neutralizing yourself so they don’t have to. As with more employer guidelines, it’s about you representing a brand or the company, not representing yourself – despite the fact that you are volunteering your own labour on their behalf. The brand is so strong, so omnipresent that it is taken for granted that it is a-political, that you should really think very carefully about stepping outside the party line. I (personally) think soapboxes should be encouraged- but I’ve already been told I have an ‘opinion’ – like it is a bad thing.
Leaking sensitive information
“Some volunteers may be privileged in their roles to have access to highly confidential and sensitive information, on a daily basis. Sometimes we are so exposed to it that we forget how valuable a small nugget would be to a potential intruder. We trust you not to share this information. Please also respect the privacy of people from outside LOCOG who may become involved in some way e.g. visiting VIPs.”
Intruder? What? Seriously. The notion that this is about protecting the Olympics from the lurking bad guy is patronizing at best. It’s about control, it is about access and it is about exclusivity to information. You are caught up in a web of PR professionals and corporate marketing teams, they rule the space and they dictate the relationships that can and cannot be formed in public. It’s celebrity and sport personality culture at best and it is one of the strongest commercial assets that exists on televised and print media. Especially any dirt on those VIPs.
What about LinkedIn?
“LinkedIn is a site specifically designed for discussing work and employment. Therefore London 2012 understands that exceptions need to be made to ensure our volunteers are able to benefit from the networking potential the site allows. However, we do ask that you limit the information you share on LinkedIn about your work while volunteering at London 2012 to the following:
Job title • Skill-set you have developed / applied in your work volunteering at London 2012 (in
general terms, without giving specific examples / names of operations involved)”
There is a thing about volunteering. It is meant to make you more employable, give you something to talk about at job interviews, help you get on the career ladder. But if you can’t talk about your role in the detail that you would like, personalize it to suit your own experiences, then I’m not sure what the benefits are working for free this summer.
“Please be aware that by synchronising accounts you are allowing an outsider to build up quite a comprehensive profile of you, and potentially your role at London 2012.”
Remember guys, we are the outsiders.
This is, for me, is not about LOCOG “not getting” social media, far from it, this is their attempt to set the ground rules for themselves and other big corporations (such as their sponsors for instance) for dealing with the use of social media amongst their employees in the future. This is the start of shutting down channels and establishing new mechanisms of control when it comes to managing employees on the ground. This is setting the benchmark for what we might expect in the future if we are to look at worker’s rights, ways that online behavior can affect or determine future contracts or job opportunities. This is about control, and not about an established monitoring program, it is about hoping that people will be too nervous or too proud to break the rules. They know exactly what they are doing.
But as I mentioned in my “occupy the Olympics” post last November for games monitor, this doesn’t mean that you need to pay attention to this. One of the greatest threats to the Olympic Games is the alternative narratives that might emerge during the time the world’s media is watching. Why do you think Cameron is so keen to ban protest, sweep up parliament square and get water cannons in place?