Public officials should not abuse anonymity of the Internet

Students are constantly reminded of the dangers of social networking and how information posted online can have real-world consequences, but now it seems public officials need to be told the same thing.

Tim Nungesser, a senior official in the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), may not have foreseen the consequences of creating a fake Twitter account and posing as a fellow Republican.

Brevard County Republican Chairman Jason Steele said to the St. Petersburg Times that he discovered a fake Twitter account three months ago using his name and picture. The account made it seem that Steele, a critic of state RPOF leaders, was posting inflammatory messages.

Steele said he believes RPOF Executive Director Delmar Johnson and Chairman Jim Greer should resign for knowing of the fake account and not taking action.

“I am sick about this,” Steele said to the Times. “This is not about me. It’s about the Republican Party of the state of Florida cleaning up its act and doing the right thing and getting back on a positive footing so people have confidence in the party again.”

The RPOF said in a statement: “RPOF investigated the matter and determined that while the activity was done without the knowledge or approval of the RPOF or any RPOF employees and did not involve the use of RPOF computers, the activity is totally unacceptable. We have taken all appropriate action, and the employee has been terminated.”

Fake Twitter accounts have posed problems before for citizens and celebrities.

Republican leaders in Connecticut created 33 fake Twitter accounts posing as Democrats running for state Legislature. The accounts were shut down last month according to the Hartford Advocate, but they were tied to fake Web sites that were not shut down.

The sites are filled with negative information about the Democratic candidates, with only a small disclaimer at the bottom of the page that says, “Paid for and authorized by the Connecticut Republican Party, Jerry Labriola Jr. Treasurer.”

State Republican Chairman Chris Healy said to the Advocate the party will not take down the fake sites, though Democrats want them to do so.

“They didn’t think of it first, so that’s why they’re whining,” Healy said.

Actions like these from public officials are unacceptable, and these leaders should stop with the childish antics.