'Social networks could help MKs understand their mission'

MKs participate in workshop designed to better acquaint them with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, other social networking tools.

Facebook 311 (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Facebook 311
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
They may be able to filibuster for hours straight, but can they tweet a message in 140 characters?
On Tuesday, MKs participated in a workshop designed to better acquaint them with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social networking tools that may be popular with the younger crowd, but can also be an important link in a parliamentary democracy.
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Almost a dozen lawmakers attended the Tuesday afternoon workshop, which was hosted by Shlomit Habaron, content director of a government website designed to make the government more available to the general public.
The legislators showed particular interest in uses of Facebook to maintain contact with voters, and asked questions about the differences among different social networking devices – between Twitter and Facebook, as well as among “walls,” “statuses” and “information” pages.
“In an era in which so many lobbyists are at work, it is important that MKs enter the world of ‘tweets’ and ‘statuses,’ so that they have a direct and ready connection with the electorate. We are taking another step to support informal meeting between MKs and the public,” Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said during the workshop.
The workshop tried to convey a picture of the different global networks, and emphasized Facebook, which is currently being used by approximately 3 million Israelis – including at least 50 of the 120 Knesset members.
“The nature of MKs’ public service is changing before our eyes,” Rivlin said. “I hope that Facebook will bring the MKs to better understand their mission, because there are those who forget it after a while.
When you don’t see those who elected you, you may forget them. When an MK won’t simply see behind them a lobbyist, but will be connected to hundreds and thousands who take interest in their actions day-by-day, and even hour-byhour, they will think five times about what they are doing, and will give a constant accounting regarding their actions.
“For me it may be too late,” Rivlin, 71, continued wryly. “I don’t know how to use social networks, and I even get help with my e-mails from my aides, and from my wife and grandchildren.”
The idea for the workshop started with a letter sent by MKs Robert Tibayev (Kadima), Uri Orbach (Haybayit Hayehudi), Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), Ilan Gilon (Meretz), Afo Agbaria (Hadash) and Israel Beiteinu MKs David Rotem, Anastasia Michaeli, Faina Kirschenbaum and Orly Levy.
“Social network sites are a very important tool in preserving and maintaining a relationship with voters,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter to Rivlin. “Today, voters expect regular updates every one to two days on the leaders they voted for, although some members still are not able to maximize the benefits by the use of social network sites.
As elected officials, it is crucial for us to know how to maintain regular contact with our voters by the use of key tools. This is not a luxury, but a basic skill, and it is important that the Knesset not remain behind.”
Knesset director-general Dan Landau opened the workshop with a discussion of elected official-voter relations via the Internet in other countries, a subject that he has been studying for months as part of the Knesset’s attempt to upgrade its computer interface with the public.
Even in Great Britain, he said, there is only a marginal interest in following parliamentary activities through Facebook, he warned.
“One needs to find the right way to use the Net wisely, so that it is not turned from popular to pathetic,” Landau said.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.