Home Office staff ordered to stop criticizing Trump on social media
In an email obtained by the Register and seen by the BBC, the staff at the Digital, Data and Technology unit of the Home Office was cautioned to comply with the civil service guidelines on impartiality.
The Home Office staff was ordered to “avoid commenting on politically controversial issues” in general and “giving personal opinions about the organization.”
“A quick look through just a couple of known personal Twitter accounts of staff members shows that some are not compliant, stating that they work for the Home Office, posting HO work, whilst tweeting or retweeting negative posts about, for example, Donald Trump.
“We need to be careful here and ensure all our staff are following this guidance which reflects the Civil Service Code,” the email added.
Trump was invited to visit the UK by British Prime Minister Theresa May during her meeting with the new US president in January.
The move sparked a wave of controversy in Britain with a petition to prevent an official visit by Trump reaching more than 1.8 million signatures.
Furthermore, a number of MPs at the British Parliament criticized the government’s decision to invite the president for a full state visit, which will include a meeting with the Queen.
Even the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, apparently breached the principle of neutrality, when he voiced his opposition to Trump’s visit, arguing that the American president should not be allowed to address the Parliament.
These concerns have reportedly prompted the Trump administration to postpone the official visit to the UK until autumn in order to let “the heat die down”
However, May recently reaffirmed her commitment to invite the US president.
“I have formally issued that invitation to President Trump and that invitation stands,” May stated during a news conference in Dublin.
The government also dismissed the anti-Trump petition, while Bercow now faces the vote of no confidence that may strip him of his position as a Speaker.
The crackdown on the Home Office staff’s social media posts may represent yet another attempt by the government to tone down criticism of Trump before his official visit to the UK.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, a Home Office spokesperson said that he would not comment on the internal correspondence, but stressed that all staff must comply with the standards of behavior as set out in the civil service code.
“This includes the need for political impartiality and also applies to the use of social media.
“This is in line with the Cabinet Office's guidelines and the changes have been communicated to all staff,” it was added.
The Register, however, points that this reminder may reflect an increasingly draconian social media policy, which contradicts the more open approach pushed by the government’s Digital Service, a unit of the Cabinet Office that aims to transform the government’s digital services.