DHSC reveals Twitter fees to ‘review volumes of tweets’ of potential recruits

Updated commercial notice reveals tech firm now offers scheme through which, for a monthly charge, users can analyse larger numbers of posts, forming part of department’s ‘due diligence’ in hiring

The Department of Health and Social Care has revealed more details of payments made to Twitter for analysing the online posts of potential new government recruits – a service which the social network is reportedly offering via a new programme of monthly fees.

The department recently published details of an engagement through which the tech firm is to provide a “ministerial intelligence tool” for “analysing posts by potential applicants/appointments to positions within government”. This information was contained in a procurement notice which indicated that the DHSC had signed a four-month contract valued at £15,736

That notice – reported on last week by PublicTechnology, in a story for which the DHSC did not respond to enquiries – has since been formally withdrawn and replaced to clarify that there is no contractual agreement with Twitter, now also known as X.

Fees for the service are instead charged monthly, with no ongoing commitment to continue using a service which enables paying customers to access, directly from Twitter, analysis of larger volumes of posts – rather than manually reviewing them.

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The updated notice indicates that, however such analysis takes place, examining a candidate’s online activity now forms part of government’s routine hiring procedure for senior officials or public appointments. These reviews are intended to ensure a candidate is likely to uphold the necessary standards required for public-service roles.

“The primary purpose of the contract is to allow the department to consider social media posts made by candidates to be appointed to public appointments,” the notice said. “The expectation of the Commissioner for Public Appointments is that departments carry out due diligence on candidates to ensure they will meet the required standards in holding public office. Checks of publicly available social media – [such as X/Twitter posts – is standard procedure. X/Twitter have recently introduced a charging policy to allow users to review volumes of Tweets/posts. The fee is paid monthly and there is no contractual commitment beyond each paid for month’s service.”

The figures included in the original procurement notice – £15,736 for a four-month term – suggest that the monthly fee for the service is £3,934.

Other commercial documents released by government in recent years have shown other departments paying private firms to help perform social media screening checks of potential new hires. The engagement with Twitter, however, appears to be the first recorded instance in public procurement records in which such information has been provided to government directly by the site in question, rather than by a third-party supplier.

Sam Trendall

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