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Twitter Moniker Mix-Up Highlights Tensions

Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee changed the appearance of their Twitter account last week after House Administration officials informed them they might be violating that chamber’s information-technology rules.

Their moniker gave the impression to some that the account belonged to the majority. Although Democrats altered their Twitter presence to conform to the IT policy, the incident highlights the ever-present tension between House rules and Members’ social media practices.

The committee minority tweets under the handle @OversightDems, an account that has existed since September 2009, when it replaced the now-defunct @OversightMaj.

Until last week, however, the full name listed was “House Oversight.” The background stated “House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform,” and a link took viewers to the committee’s majority website — information that could lead visitors to believe the site belonged to the committee majority.

Misidentifying a social media page as a majority account when the content comes from the minority might violate House Administration Committee and House IT guidelines, which state the name must “be recognizably derivative or representative of the name of the entity.”

A Democratic committee staffer said the Twitter page and the identifying information on it was a holdover from when the Democrats did lead the committee, although Members changed the account avatar to one of current ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

The staffer insinuated the issue arose only after Republicans on the committee told the House Administration Committee.

“Glad to hear they’re following our Twitter account so closely,” the staffer said in an email. “We continue to change over all our social media while we try to save Medicare for our seniors, prevent illegal foreclosures against service members and help Americans save at the pump — real issues that Americans actually care about.”

Last week, the account name was changed to “House OversightDems,” and the background and URL were both changed to correctly indicate the site belonged to Democrats.

Republicans on the Oversight Committee declined to comment for this article.

But that committee’s Democrats are hardly the only ones that have trouble toeing the line with Twitter monikers. A glance at the accounts of several committee minorities shows frequent divergence from the regulation.

Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats, for instance, tweet under the handle @EnergyCommerce. (Republicans’ pseudonym is @HouseCommerce.)

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Democrats use the account @HouseTransInf, and Ways and Means Committee Democrats tweet from @WaysMeansCmte.

While the minority on the Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, and Science, Space and Technology committees identify party affiliation in their Twitter handles, they do not do so in the full name.

Veterans’ Affairs Committee Democrats provide a link to the majority website instead of their own.

And that’s just on Twitter. On other social media holdings, Democratic staffs of committees vary widely in how they identify themselves: Oversight Democrats’ YouTube account, for instance, is named OversightMaj.

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