Council media chief suspended amid social media ‘spying’ claim

A LOCAL council media chief has been suspended, pending an investigation into claims that she used social media to ‘spy’ on critics.

Jo Smith, communications manager at Argyll and Bute Council, is said to have admitted, at a social media conference, to monitoring critics of the council by joining their social media groups.

The story – an exclusive in yesterday’s The Herald, by social affairs correspondent, Stephen Naysmith – had local MSP, Michael Russell, who is also the Scottish Government education secretary, writing a letter about it to the council’s chief executive, in which he says: “I cannot remember being as angry.”

Writes Naysmith today: “Speaking to The Herald prior to her suspension, Ms Smith claimed her comments about ‘spy accounts’ had been taken out of context and it had not been carried out on Argyll and Bute Council’s time.¬†‘It was about trying to create a separate account different from your normal one that you have holiday photographs on. “Spy account” was shorthand for it being another identity, to take you into a place that you wouldn’t be comfortable using your main account. I’m sure people do this all the time,’ she said.

“Ms Smith refused to discuss what groups she had joined, adding: ‘My online activity in my private life is private. You separate the professional from the personal and keep those two things separate. That is why many people post and say “this isn’t my employers’ opinion”. There are no rules here.'”