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Weird

Public Sector Trolls? 7 "Institutional" Social Media Accounts That Let It Rip

The Ukraine government’s official Twitter account is using memes and GIFs to poke Moscow and draw attention to the risk of a Russian invasion. It is one of just a few institutional accounts that has decided not to be careful

Photo of a plastic figurine in front of a smartphone displaying social media icons

Funny, controversial and sometimes downright trolling

Laure Gautherin

From good humor to hate speech, you can find just about anything on social media. And it’s not just entertainers, or the anonymously angry: Our would-be public servants of the world have long since jumped into the fray, with provocateur presidents from Donald Trump to Jair Bolsonaro to Rodrigo Duterte.

But Twitter and Facebook and Instagram are also full of plenty of painfully careful (though sometimes very useful) accounts of public institutions, from offices of the prime minister to national weather services to local police stations.


Yet there are the rare occasions when such high standards of seriousness and neutrality from institutional social networks are tossed out the virtual window. This week, with rumors of war circulating between Ukraine and Russia, the already famously ironic Ukraine government Twitter account was at it again, posting a meme about the stress created by having Russia as a neighbor.

Because the institutional accounts are not attached to a name, one can only imagine what and who is setting them on the path to social media fame, or infamy. Here are some of the spiciest examples around the world:

UKRAINE GOING VIRAL

As threats of Russian invasion are looming over the border in Ukraine, the national government’s official verified Twitter account is cranking out the “content,” from memes to cartoons to straight-up silly GIFs. The meme of Putin and Co. as the cause of the worst kind of headache garnered both virality and global compassion.

NEW JERSEY-DELAWARE, TROLLING ACROSS STATE LINES

Though the cross-border stakes are far lower, the animosity between the U.S. states of New Jersey and Delaware has gotten heated on the respective official social media accounts.

The two accounts often hurl barbs at each other, including an April Fool’s Day missive where Delaware implied the two states would be merging and that NJ was offered a fresh start in this new geographical arrangement. To which the latter replied using the famous online expression “delete ur account”. This single tweet won close to 200k hearts and was proudly pinned on the state account — which by the way has, as a profile picture, Mandalorian’s “Baby Yoda” holding an enlightened shape of New Jersey — to appear first.

But New Jersey’s Twitter account does not take kindly to anyone (not only Delaware) taking online slaps at its reputation.

INFLUENCERS OF THE ICELAND POLICE

Iceland is known to be one of the safest countries in the world, with the lowest murder rate in Europe. One could thus wonder: What does its police force — one of the few on the planet not to carry a gun — do on a daily basis if it’s not fighting crime? The answer is: competing with all the top Instagram influencers, showering its page with wacky selfies, kittens, puppies, ice-creams and sled fun.

For several years now, Reykjavik’s metropolitan police have won users’ hearts on globally thanks to their pictures. But don’t be fooled, ensuring people’s safety is a tough task that “Lögreglan á höfuðborgarsvæðinu” put their whole heart into! You don’t maintain such order by just saving ducklings. Still...

SPAIN GUARDIA CIVIL MEMES

We don’t associate “branding” with law enforcement. Still, messages of safety and legality also need to pop up in feeds to get the point across. So Spain’s Guardia Civil knows few are going to remember a boring Public Service Announcement. So in between two traditional messages, the Guardia Civil makes sure some information gets across on Twitter, and beyond...

Bike + helmet = safety; Bike - helmet = lottery

Don’t leave your life in the Force’s hands

Many antivirus and systems have been invented to protect your computer but don’t forget the most effective of them all is common sense.

PS: Hiring Chuck Norris as an antivirus does not work.

FRENCH GENDARMERIE COMIC RELIEF

The département of the Vosges, in eastern France, is well known for its lakes and mountainous relief. On Twitter, it is also famous thanks to its anonymous community manager of the regional police force. For more than three years, he (all we know about the identity is that it’s a man) has maintained a good balance between official messages and online wit.

Desperately looking for the Sun. Age: 4,603 billion years old. Description: yellow ball 696,340 km wide. If you see it, please do not look it in the eyes and call MétéoFrance (the official weather institution).

Cherished by Twitter users, the anonymous community manager has become a nationwide phenomenon, winning over his big boss in the process. “If he’s listening: I will soon have him join the general management”, said Christian Rodriguez, head of the national gendarmerie (DGGN) on the TV show C à Vous back in May. And the invitation was duly received.

Thanks for the invite ;)

ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCE BACKFIRE

Humor is a powerful weapon that comes with a risk of backfire. The Israel Defense Force (IDF) has often experienced it on Twitter where the military authority sometimes chooses to use memes and other visuals to illustrate their fight against Hamas in Gaza. But such a tone can sometimes hit very bad notes on a social platform that has plenty to say about Israel’s policy toward Palestinians.

BIT OF CIA FUN

Another controversial international force that has spread its wings on Twitter is the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The spy outfit, for whatever lines it crosses in the real world, seems to have a knack for going just far enough to have fun with its public reputation.

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Ideas

Absolute Free Speech Is A Recipe For Violence: Notes From Paris For Monsieur Musk

Elon Musk bought Twitter in the name of absolute freedom. But numerous research shows that social media hate speech leads to actual violence. Musk and others running social networks need to strike a balance.

Absolute Free Speech Is A Recipe For Violence: Notes From Paris For Monsieur Musk

Freedom on social networks can result in insults and defamation

Jean-Marc Vittori

-Analysis-

PARIS — Elon Musk is the world's leading reckless driver. The ever unpredictable CEO of Tesla and SpaceX is now behind a very different wheel as the new head of Twitter.

He began by banning remote work before slightly backtracking and authorizing it for the company’s “significant contributors.” Now he’s opened the door to Donald Trump to return to Twitter, while at the same time vaunting a decrease in the number of hate-messages that appear on the social network…all while firing Twitter’s content moderation teams.

But this time, the world’s richest man will have to make choices. He’ll have to limit his otherwise unconditional love of free speech. “Freedom consists of being able to do everything that does not harm others,” proclaimed the French-born Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789.

Yet freedom on social networks results not only in insults and defamation, but sometimes also in physical aggression.

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