A perfect PR storm on South Tyneside

You’ve got to wonder if South Tyneside Council has scored a massive own goal over the hunt for Mr Monkey.  Actually, given the timing, it seems not so much an own goal, but more like an incompetent suicide bomber who blows himself up before reaching his target.

As Curly has suggested, if it hadn’t been for a philandering footballer’s attempt to force Twitter to release information identifying the anonymous tweeters who revealed the existence and detail of his superinjunction, the world might never have learned of South Tyneside Council’s success in the same over the Twitter accounts linked to infamous local anonymous blog site Mr Monkey.

The national press interest has now put South Tyneside not just on the map, but under the magnifying glass too. And the timing couldn’t be better for the South Tyneside Independent Alliance. National bi-weekly news magazine Private Eye reported on South Tyneside Council’s multi-million pound financial dealings with it’s interests in Newcastle Airport, overseen by the council’s leader, who sits on the Airport’s board. A story likely inspired by the Independent Alliance’s own investigations.

Inquisitive national journalists digging deeper into South Tyneside’s political past will look into David Potts, one of the plaintiffs in the Twitter data case, providing them with an opportunity to revisit David Potts’ own infamous twitter episode.

Investigations by curious bystanders will lead inevitably to the Independent Alliance’s website, who will no doubt be seeing their site hit rate go through the roof. Given the slow page refresh speed this morning, I suspect that this is already underway. Also, many people who had never heard of Mr Monkey will be beating a web path to all of the Mr Monkey blogs. Just last night, I was talking to neighbours who had never heard of Mr Monkey and, since the national press revelations, are now acquainting themselves by trawling through old posts on the blogs.

If South Tyneside Council wanted to shut Mr Monkey up, then they’ve failed spectacularly. Instead they’ve sent more people into the Monkey’s hairy arms. Despite the threat of legal action, those behind the Mr Monkey blog may feel they’re the winner here, and there’ll be an ego or two getting a bit of a buffing a with a side of a misplaced sense of self justification.

At a time when South Tyneside is trying to bring jobs into the area and reach out to potential employers, we have a perfect storm of bad news, which may raise further clouds of doubt over the probity and reliability of South Tyneside Council as business partners.

Anonymity is a useful tool in the right hands, especially when it comes to whistle blowing and casting a light on the dubious activities of the powerful and dishonest. But here, someone with an axe to grind has abused web anonymity to scar local reputations, and has risked the borough’s regeneration efforts and with it the livelihoods of struggling South Tynesiders.

Everyone in South Tyneside loses.

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