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Social media is a double-edged sword.
Get it right and a presence on social media can do wonders for your brand, your sales, your image and your interaction with the world.
Get it wrong and exactly the opposite can happen.
Unfortunately, bureaucracies don't seem to understand that the "do you know who we are?" attitude simply doesn't wash on social media. They all-too-often fail to understand that you respect must be earned on social media, it's not something you're entitled to as a right simply because you're an agency of the government.
Then there's the issue of "WOKEness". And my, what an issue that is.
Sadly for an agency of the US government this week, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong with their attempts to leverage social media to their advantage and they made themselves look very foolish indeed.
The agency was the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and the social media platform involved was YouTube.
Before I refer you to the disaster that unfolded a couple of days ago, let me be totally up-front and say that I have little time for the FAA. This is the US government agency that used my copyrighted video material without permission or acknowledgement. Indeed, they even cropped out my watermark to remove any trace of where they pilfered it from.
"Rules are for thee, not for me" seems to be their position when it comes to following pesky laws and regulations.
All of that was documented in this video I posted to YouTube:
If you read the comments on that video you'll see that the FAA got their arse handed to them on a plate for their actions. You'd think they'd have learned from this experience that social media users are unforgiving of bad behaviour by government agencies... but no.
Their latest example of utter incompetence with respect to social media comes in the form of this video (I've linked to the video page so you can read the comments in the live-chat).
What a disaster!
For a start, this was about as WOKE a setup as you could possibly imagine.
This was supposed to be an interaction between students of a drone summer-camp and the FAA Administrator. The kids were supposed to explain what they'd been doing in the summer camp and ask the Administrator questions. The Administrator was then supposed to be available to answer questions from those viewing the livestream -- those questions to come via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube users.
Sounds great doesn't it?
But take a look at the composition of the stream. It was introduced by a white woman and the kids were all African American (with the exception of a token white boy).
Going overboard to show your WOKEness FAA?
It's important to realise that these kids are supposedly all enthused by and interested in drones so the opportunity to talk to the FAA Administrator should have been inspiring and exciting.
Well if you watch the first 25 minutes of the video you will see an old white bureaucrat bore the pants off a bunch of kids by barely mentioning drones at all. He raves on about SpaceX, NASA and even Rocketlab -- blathering about the fun he had at Florida just a few days earlier. That is NOT what this stream was supposed to be about. The stream was part of DRONE WEEK, not "what I did on my Florida vacation".
Also, read the comments in the live-chat alongside the video... oh dear!
The online audience was expressing their outrage at planned regulatory changes in the USA that will effectively kill the hobby and cripple STEM/STEAM programmes across the country.
At around the 48 minute mark, "Kaden" (the token white kid) actually got to the core of the issue and asked questions regarding these proposed rule changes. What happened next just blew me away.
The FAA Administrator outright lied to these kids!
The proposed rule changes would require all drones to be purchased from a certified manufacturer and carry remote-ID technology. Flying these drones would require that the operator effectively gets permission to fly each and every time before they take off and that would be done via a networked traffic management system.
Drones used for drone-racing are almost all hand-built by those who fly them and thus they would not be allowed to be flown anywhere but at specially authorised sites called FRIAs. You would NOT be allowed to fly a non-certified drone at your local park, school or any other area. There are also no exceptions proposed to this rule -- so for the Administrator to say that the rule is only meant for commercial drones and those operating at heights of more than 300 ft (as he does in response to Kaden's questions) is an outright lie.
What the administrator failed to admit was that this new proposed regulation will effectively deny kids like this the ability to experiment with drones, build their own craft and fly them anywhere except for a tiny handful of locations that are likely to be many miles from the areas where they live.
Then there was that Q&A session where they were to take questions from the various social media platforms -- right?
What happened to that?
Well it's obvious that the admins who were running the stream saw very clearly that the viewing audience was hostile to the lies and rhetoric of the FAA Administrator so there was no way they were going to open the floor to questions that would have embarrassed him further. As a result... that part of the stream simply didn't happen at all.
What a fiasco and definitive proof that the FAA is not fit for purpose, when it comes to interacting with the drone-user community let alone regulating them.
Will our CAA do any better?
I doubt it. They've had their fingers burned quite severely (by guess who?) and now live in fear of their lives -- unwilling to venture out of their offices due to the terrifying memes that have poked fun at them.
Perhaps these agencies should start listening rather than preaching to the online audience, then they might gain some traction and stop looking like a bunch of arrogant ignorant twats.
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