Twitter has taken steps to deal with former Sunday Independent writer and former senator, Eoghan Harris, for anonymous account activity.
But who is Eoghan Harris and why is this significant? Or should we say….who is “Barbara J Pym” (@barbarapym2) ? – the main twitter account he was using anonymously.
According to Wikipedia, Eoghan Harris ‘has held posts in various and diverse political parties throughout his career. Previously a Marxist theoretician of the Workers’ Party of Ireland and its predecessor, Official Sinn Féin, he has since stated that he abhors Marxism. He was a short-lived adviser to John Bruton, before Bruton became Taoiseach; an adviser to the Ulster Unionist Party; and, more recently, a supporter of the Fianna Fáil-led government of Bertie Ahern. At one stage an Irish republican, Harris is now a bitter critic of modern-day Sinn Féin. His critics accuse him of demonstrating ideological malleability, hypocrisy, neoconservatism and inconsistency.’
Until 6 May 2021, he wrote for the Sunday Independent newspaper; he was fired after admitting being involved in the running of an anonymous Twitter account under the pseudonym “Barbara J Pym”
Alan English, Editor for the Sunday Independent said the content posted from the account, much of which was directed at Sinn Féin and nationalists, went beyond fair and reasonable comment.
“We regard Eoghan Harris’s involvement with this account as a betrayal of trust and as such his contract has been terminated.”
Twitter announced that the accounts had breached “policy on platform manipulation and spam”
It is not uncommon for organisations and individuals to have twitter accounts that are shielded for all sorts of personal and commercial reasons (yet they are transparent with Twitter), but this man was a Journalist in a National Newspaper and had a platform to influence and impact public opinion, especially towards politically sensitive situations in the North of Ireland – Worse again he was alleged to be attacking other media professionals and persons in other sectors that he did not agree with in an anonymous way – he is also suggesting that that he was not the only person contributing to the account….and who knows how many more.
One of the account’s targets was Irish Examiner political correspondent Aoife Grace Moore.
“This account sent me sexualised messages about whether Mary Lou McDonald ‘turned me on’, the size of my arse and called me a terrorist from the month I started at the Examiner. Since then, I’ve had to go to counselling and the guards,”
Eoghan Harris could be and is probably perceived as a controversial character in the media world and one wonders was he using these platforms to drum up engagement in his paid roles.
He also denied he was behind tweets from the Pym account which effusively praised his own writing.
It could be suggested his position should have been questioned long before this by his employers, but unfortunately many media outlets embrace controversial media characters as they generate positive and negative engagement, and in an online world that means PPC revenue.
In a statement issued on Friday afternoon by Harris, he said he is one of a rotating panel of people who “curate” the Pym account, “who oppose Sinn Fein’s campaign to bully Northern Protestants into an Irish Republic”.
In an interview on RTÉ’s Drivetime programme with Sarah McInerney on Friday evening, Harris said he ran the account with five others, including “trade unionists, historians and businesspeople”.
Harris said he was not sorry he became involved in the account. “I would have had to find an outlet to deal with Northern Ireland one way or another. It is my life.”
Is it his life to create hostility from his arm chair? Hostility that impacts families and people across Northern Ireland – He suggests Political parties are using social media tools to push their agenda, but is he or other media personalities any better, using their transparent (and in this case anonymous) platforms to push their personal agenda?
Peter Vandermeersch, publisher at Mediahuis Ireland (Formerly INM), said that while Harris has been an “outstanding columnist”, all employees must follow Mediahuis Ireland’s (INM) core values of “openness, transparency and the highest journalistic standards”.
“We could not tolerate a situation where a columnist was contributing anonymously to a social media account which contradicts these core values,” he said.
Eoghan Harris is not just on public trial here, other media individuals and outlets will soon follow.
Image Source: https://www.newsletter.co.uk/