“It got me thinking … even things like email are automatically backed up for compliance records and I could see a lot of value in the conversations these organisations were having with citizens via social media … but I was wondering what measures were in place to protect the organisation. What would happen if that tweet from the CFA was ill-advised and wasn’t approved?
A start-up that claims to have developed world-first technology to capture social media correspondence across platforms has locked in government deals, including with the Department of Immigration and Border Control.
The application, called Brolly, promises to let government agencies and organisations record all interactions on social media between it and the public, even if a post is deleted.
It was founded by tech entrepreneur Nathan Cram after he was forced to rely on Twitter updates from the Country Fire Authority to escape the Wye River bushfire in 2014. He said the experience made him realise there needed to be a way for public organisations to better track their interactions online.
“I was holidaying in Lorne with my family and we could see these plumes of smoke over the escarpment and we were following all the crisis communication channels, listening to the sirens and talking to neighbours about updates, but it was a single tweet sent by the CFA that influenced my decision to get the hell out of there,” he said
Mr Cram spent the next few years researching the publishing process within public organisations and how to create a social media compliance record for these organisations, which would operate constantly in the background.
Rather than just scraping the data, Brolly takes screenshots of websites linked to in any social media interactions and saves and downloads any media connected to the posts, including live streams.
Mr Cram emphasised the importance of this feature when asked if the technology could be used by the Department of Immigration to influence visa application decisions or claims.
He said if an individual chose to disparage one of these organisations on social media, it would not be recorded unless the organisation was tagged. Equally, it does not track social media users’ tweets outside of interactions with the organisations.
All of Brolly’s data is stored on Australian servers and customers pay based on the amount they post online.
It has also secured deals with the WorkSafe Victoria, Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and Sciences, as well as the City of Albany council in Western Australia.
As its client list grows, Mr Cram said, it could lead to more social-media-related freedom of information requests and also prove useful in court cases involving government agencies.
“We’ve already seen specific FOI requests relating to social media activity and the future of these social media networks as a mechanism to deliver services is by no means dying down.”
WorkSafe social media manager Lysandra Godley said recording and searching through hundreds of social media interactions was taking up too much time for her small team.
“WorkSafe needs a lot of information when managing these reports so we use social media as a gateway to connect through traditional communication. I’m confident that we can retrieve this information because Brolly captures these conversations for us.”