Twitter Ye Not! London 2012 volunteers start walking after social media ban

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null2012 volunteers prohibited from sharing on social networks

Volunteer Games Makers for the London Olympics have been informed that they are not allowed to share their experiences via social media.

In a ruling issued by the Olympics organisers LOCOG, volunteers have been told that they must not share information about their volunteer role or about any of the athletes and celebrities that they meet.

A direction issued from LOCOG says that all social media communications about the Games will managed by its communications team. Volunteers are allowed to share that they are taking part in the Games Maker programme but are not allowed to share any specific details which will have to be authorised by LOCOG.

In the directive issued recently LOCOG states that volunteers must:

  • not to disclose their location
  • not to post a picture or video of Locog backstage areas closed to the public
  • not to disclose breaking news about an athlete
  • not to tell their social network about a visiting VIP, eg an athlete, celebrity or dignitary.
  • not to get involved in detailed discussion about the Games online
  • but they can retweet or pass on official London 2012 postings.

Some volunteers have reacted against this decision which has, naturally, caused much discussion on social networking sites. One wrote on Facebook:

"Because of this I have cancelled my application. I do not want to be associated with anything that is that controlling. Bye all"

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Top answer

“…All and sundry with a valid excuse to comment on your volunteer management practices!…”

Hmm…Interesting choice of words…personally I do not see my peers and others as being, “all and sundry”, as Steve suggests.

My peers, because they often have a wealth of knowledge and vested interest in volunteers, volunteering, and allied ethics, principles etc of volunteerism.

In respect of those outside of our profession and the volunteering world, (aka) the tax payer, then I would not be so “bold” as to say that the people who are footing the bill had no right to comment, and nor would I see their comments as being excuses, which they are not, but rather they are reasons, and reasons are very different in context, and meaning from excuses.

Or are we to say that only those with letters after their name, or before it, i.e. crusty text book academics, and/or those who have had honours bestowed on them have the legitimate right to make comment?

Speaking of which, I have no doubt that if all goes well (which for the volunteers sake I hope it does), then those same people who are open to excuses from “all and sundry” will no doubt gladly accept MBE’s OBE’s, Knighthoods etc, presumably on behalf of all the volunteers who stood for hours on end wet through in some far flung corner of the Olympic village.

So yes I would agree, if you accept tax payers money, more especially when the tax payer has had little or no say in they way it is being spent, then you must expect “the funders” to have their say.

It just shows that when you set up a volunteering programme, try not to rely on tax-payers' money to do it - otherwise you'll have all and sundry with a valid excuse to comment on your volunteer management practices!

My blog on this is now online at

Fair points, although I would disagree with some based solely on the fact that I truly believe in the legacy of the Games: that it’s financially worthwhile, and will create infrastructure and a culture throughout the country that will lead to countless benefits for coming generations.

I suppose the point I’m making is that most criticism of the volunteer program seems to me to be more based on a political view of the worthiness of the Games than an assessment of the Games Makers project. I can’t think of many other volunteer programs that coordinate 70,000 volunteers - coming from across the country, at geographically different sites, volunteering in a huge variety of different roles, interacting with thousands of different ‘service recipients’ (for want of a better term), for just 6 weeks – that haven’t encountered some of the challenges LOCOG has.

Having seen first hand the positive impact volunteering at a Games can have (my wife and half a dozen members of her family volunteered in various roles at the Sydney 2000 Games, and continue to contribute to the community and legacy of that army of volunteers), the optimist in me feels that when the volunteers wake up on 10th September, there’ll be a ‘special feeling’ about what they’ve done that will outweigh any criticism.

@NewsHound I'd be very interested to see how many of those volunteers actually do pull out. My gut instinct, given how brave and opinionated people get behind a keyboard, would be very few. Also, given all the coverage at the start of this process of how LOCOG would 'manage the disappoinment' of the hundreds of thousands of unsuccessful volunteers, I'm not convinced that volunteers 'starting to walk' is something they'll consider a problem. Although they'd never say that, of course.

@RobWoolley lots of twitter conversations too with volunteers saying they intend to pull out

Just to clarify; by "control" I mean the ability of LOCOG in part through the censorship of volunteers; to release information to subjective “positive” affect/effect/spin, and which by default would include, information released at certain times, to certain people, (i.e. mainstream media), and that this would in turn generate revenue, for this/that group of people, body, org etc.

As such, volunteers using social media, and releasing un-spun information spontaneously, breaks up the nice, cosy, historic cash cow arrangement.

In a wider sense, “Commercially attractive”…yes… but always profit making?

As they say in buisiness, turnover is Vanity, profit is Sanity…but lets assume for the sake of argument, that the games do make a healthy profit; then ask yourself, what percentage of that profit would be spent in run down areas of the country, beyond the boundaries of London?

Whilst conversely; if it makes a loss who picks up the tab?

As Robwhoolley mentions, the LOCOG journey re volunteers in the lead up to the games hasn’t been ideal at times; as such, then logically one has to wonder, what will happen to volunteers after the games; when the high and mighty have stopped being fed and watered, and when the gold has lost its lustre; in other words, when they are no longer needed, and the "car parks" are empty?

LOCOG “Can’t win”?

Lets get real; given the astronomical amounts of money we are talking about here, compared to what limited budgets most VM’s and orgs have to work with in respect of volunteers and providing ethical quality volunteering, volunteering opportunities, then what do LOCOG want…sympathy!?

I'm not sure there's any evidence, other than one Facebook post, that volunteers have "start(ed) walking" because of these guidelines. And it's a bit tabloid to describe it as a "social media ban", I feel.

I would also disagree that this decision is really about 'control'. I think it's a decision based purely on $ (although I'm not sure that's any less disdainful). The Olympic and Paralympics Games is the most commerically attractive event in history, and lots of people pay lots of money to get exclusive access, at the time and in the future, to information and images some of the volunteers would see day-to-day. I concede that the journey LOCOG has been on with volunteers hasn't been ideal (at times), but I can't help feel they can't win with stuff like this.

Firstly…Have the 2012 games been moved to N. Korea?

For it would appear that we are firm favourites to win Gold in paranoia, mass hysteria and fear; …but lets be honest here, silencing volunteers is not about security, as they would have us believe; not the abstract its not.

No… its about control; control of information; all information, and by default mass censorship; for it has finally dawned on the powers that be, perhaps following the Arab spring, that this is really the first games whereby you and I, the tax payers and primary funders of this white elephant can relate our honest thoughts and feelings in the moment via social media, and this scares the pants of the establishment and their respective corporate, personal, governmental spin doctors.

Re volunteers per’s a, I absolutely agree with the previous comments from Dan on this one, and yes lets not forget Volunteers do have the option to walk away from this totalitarian “volunteering” experience; and will hopefully realise sooner rather than later that the London 2012 games are certainly not pathed with ethical volunteer gold, and that in the main if you are not as Dan suggests getting p**s wet through in a distant car park, then the most many can wish for as a 2012 volunteer is the metaphorical crumbs from the table of the elite, and to be thankful for it…after all you were there on the big occasion; albeit soaked to the skin, and bored silly.

As VM’s, volunteers, volunteer involving organisations, I feel we should all be mindful of, and remember that every penny that has been spent on this folly is a penny that has not been spent on volunteering infrastructure across the whole of the UK, and how much better would volunteering, and your local community be if the 10 Billion + had been spent more wisely

What a wasted opportunity… for what richer lasting legacy could there have been; than to invest in volunteering across the country… but rather; after two weeks of people running around in circles, and straight lines, jumping, throwing things about; and in catering for predominantly minority spectator sports; then what we will have is not a robust fit for purpose volunteering infrastructure, one which can help in the delivery of the “Big Society”.

No…we will have yet more privately owned “public” facilities that few can access, because in the long run you have to be a member of a specific club/group, and/or have very deep pockets.

Not forgetting of course, that if you live outside of London (which is the majority of us), then once again you get nothing, only the privilege of paying for it all!

I get the need to manage security etc, but I doubt volunteers will have much access to highly confidential info, and even if they did I think they could probably be trusted to keep schtum when needed. The Games experience is exactly the sort of thing we want volunteers to tweet about, exciting and engaging stuff that will provide a unique insight to this once in a lifetime opportunity. By seeking to censor in this way it shows that LOCOG really don't get what social media is about - ie real people having real conversations vs corporate marketing messages. Step back and let go guys!