Mention the nation’s Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse and what most people remember are the fiascos over its Chairs and the seemingly never-ending conflicts of interest amongst its advisers. Few outside of Twitter will have noticed the Inquiry’s beleaguered twitter feed, which has caused considerable problems for the Inquiry, too.
The Inquiry’s refusal to investigate two catholic schools responsible for decades of abuse is the latest scandal to hit the headlines, and is an unfortunate development because whilst the project’s Twitter page has been a disaster in its own right, frustrating survivors and victims and damaging the Inquiry’s credibility, it is finally getting its act together.
The Inquiry’s initial social media approach featured an uninspiring Twitter feed populated with bland, almost mechanical updates on the Inquiry’s work but it was its ‘no engagement’ policy which angered victims and survivors the most, looking to the account for answers to questions that weren’t being answered by the Panel or the mainstream media. At its worst, the silence on the Twitter page forced survivors to look for important information through the press, which came to a head when victims’ personal statements were leaked and destroyed by an IT bungle at the Inquiry.
The silence was interpreted as indifference by members of the public, and child abuse survivors who have strong links with the social media site, using it as both a lobbying platform and a way to highlight issues around child sexual abuse. It was a policy that cost the inquiry some of the small bit of goodwill it had managed to scrape back after its rocky start, and also highlighted the social media team’s complete lack of understanding around engagement and the nature of social media.
Within the last few days, a dramatic shift has taken place over on the Inquiry’s Twitter page. Gone is the utterly unmemorable logo (another, less important story) that was being used as the account’s background image and in its place a pleasant photo of Inquiry Chair Alexis Jay with a supportive message for survivors. The account has changed its handle from the slightly confusing @IICSA_Media to a much more focused handle – @InquiryCSA – and it is, at last, engaging with the public and the platform it is using.
Occasional, robotic tweets about its meetings have been replaced with warmer, more accessible language describing the Inquiry’s work, and the sharing of information both from survivors, the media and the general public. The team is ‘liking’ messages of encouragement and featuring uplifting stories from survivors who have chosen to go public with their experience. It’s refreshing. And it’s working.
To date the account doesn’t seem to have responded directly to individual questions, but hopefully this will come with time. Twitter is the perfect platform for supporting survivors and victims of abuse, offering the ability to both direct people to the right place and show the public a more human side to what is essentially a profoundly human project.
Researching Reform wishes the Inquiry’s social media team lots of luck. You can follow the Inquiry’s Twitter account here.