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The Kansas governor apologizes to the rude teen

November 28, 2011 |  1:28 pm

Gov. Brownback
The teenage girl was wrong -- not because she tweeted something negative about Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback but because she did it during a school activity while he was speaking, when she was supposed to be listening, not showing off her (crudely worded) social media skills. The principal of her school was more wrong, by demanding that the girl send a letter of apology to the governor for her less-than-admiring words. She had the right to tweet whatever she wanted -- or would have, had it been on her own time.

But as for the Kansas governor's office -- what on earth was the staff thinking? After finding the girl's tweet during a routine scan of social media references to Brownback, the staffers notified the Youth in Government program that had sponsored the trip of the girl and other high school students. Keeping tabs on what's being said about your officeholder -- or corporation -- is standard and smart practice. Using that information to get people in trouble is usually called censorship.

Brownback's office has apologized. Sullivan, 18, is unrepentant -- and in the hubbub afterward, picked up about 3,000 more followers on Twitter. With that many people watching what she says, it would be nice if she learned that her words, whether poorly chosen or not, are more public than she might think.

Probably not going to happen. Now Sullivan is saying that she'd like to have a thoughtful discussion of the issues with Brownback. Most people would forgive the governor if he thinks there's not much to say to someone whose idea of critiquing public officials is "heblowsalot."


Surveillance by machines, not people

The right of citizens to videotape police

Patt Morrison Asks: Tiffany Shlain, wired in

--Karin Klein

Photo: Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback answers questions from reporters this month in Topeka. Credit: John Hanna / Associated Press

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