COUNCILLORS in Worcestershire are being warned over their use of Facebook and Twitter - after hearing of the dangers of treating it like "a chat in the pub".
Worcestershire County Council is planning to stage an in-house seminar for all its politicians following an unprecedented explosion in the popularity of social media.
It will focus on using tools like Facebook to connect with voters - and how to avoid the pitfalls they could so easily fall into.
During a meeting to debate it at County Hall, examples were highlighted such as Sally Bercow, the wife of commons speaker John Bercow, who was sued for £50,000 libel after she used a tweet to link a former Conservative politician to false child abuse allegations.
After Lord McAlpine was wrongly implicated, he secured the payout and donated it to BBC Children In Need.
During a meeting of the county council's standards and ethics committee, councillors said the dangers are ever-present.
Councillor Joe Baker said: "Many years ago I worked in the Ministry of Justice as a high-security prison officer , and there were so many do's and do nots over social media, what you put on Facebook and so on.
"A lot of it is just common sense. A single statement about a person or a group can be scrutinised by thousands, so you've got to be careful."
Councillor Ken Pollock cited the example of Sally Bercow, and said public figures need to be "horribly aware" of the legal positions they could end up in.
"My daughter wrote something that Jeremy Clarkson re-tweeted, and he's got three millions followers," he said.
"You've got to assume that anything you write could go anywhere, it could end up in the newspapers, the front page of the Daily Mail."
Simon Mallinson, the council's legal chief, said: "When you're on social media it's not like a chat down the pub.
"It's in the public domain, people can see it anywhere."
Rachel Brown, marketing and communications officer at the council, said: "There are an awful lot of residents who are using social media a lot, if you aren't using it you are missing out on a really good way of communicating with them."
After a request from Councillor Derek Prodger, a seminar will take place around how to use social media.
Dozens of councillors in Worcestershire and all six MPs routinely use both Twitter and Facebook to connect with the public.