Twitter signs ‘ministerial intelligence’ deal to analyse posts by potential government hires

Outline of commercial engagement with DHSC suggests that social networking site will provide ministers with analysis of online comments made by those in line to be appointed to government posts

Twitter has signed a contract to provide ministers with information on the details of posts made by users being considered for government jobs, commercial documents indicate.

The social networking site – which has rebranded itself as X – entered into a deal with the Department of Health and Social Care on 30 November. The engagement runs until 31 March and will be worth £15,736, according to a freshly published procurement notice headed “Twitter/X ministerial intelligence tool”.

The notice indicated that Twitter UK Ltd will provide the department with “a tool to support ministerial appointments by analysing posts by potential applicants/appointments to positions within government”.

“Standard terms and conditions provided by the supplier are used for this service,” it added.

Ministerial sign-off is required for the most senior civil service posts and leadership roles in arm’s-length agencies and other public bodies – such as regulators. In the case of the DHSC, ministers will also be asked to approve top-level appointments to NHS England.

Although ministers are typically afforded the opportunity to feed into these recruitment processes, if they so wish, they are not allowed to sit directly on interview panels and rules are in place to try and ensure procedures are not politicised, and that all appointments are made solely on merit.

It is not clear what kind of analysis Twitter will be asked to provide on users’ posts, nor how such information may then impact ministers’ decisions regarding hiring decisions.

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The DHSC did not respond to requests from PublicTechnology for further information and comment and the contract itself has not been published alongside the bare-bones notice.

The deal is not the first time candidates for government roles have been subject to social-media screening – although it appears to be the first recorded instance in which such information has been provided directly by the site in question.

In May 2022, the Department for Transport signed a deal with Capita for the delivery of such services.

“We are introducing social media background checks to complement our existing pre-employment screening process,” a spokesperson for the DfT said at the time. “These are common in UK recruitment practice and will ensure that all new hires act in accordance with the civil service code.”

Several months later the Cabinet Office faced criticism after it emerged that the central department had tasked officials with performing similar checks on potential external speakers taking part in government events. Officials were asked to comb through up to five years of online posts, with a particular remit to look for anything criticising government policy or personnel.

Sam Trendall

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