U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley's Twitter account is an odd mix of political views and personal anecdotes. And some experts say she may be flouting State Department regulations regarding social media use.
U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley insisted that she doesn’t “get confused” about her job. But she does seem to be unclear about her own department’s guidelines on social media use.
By using her Twitter account for both diplomatic and personal use, Haley is raising concerns among experts who see it as a clear violation of State Department rules.
Politico reports that her use of the @NikkiHaley account to tweet about topics from the humanitarian crisis in Syria to her favorite music and her dog appears to flout the rules “barring the use of personal social media accounts to make official statements.”
Haley, of course, has a model for this kind of Twitter usage in her boss. But as Politico notes, Trump isn’t covered by State Department rules.
However, the U.N. ambassador certainly ought to be.
And particularly within the context of Haley as a possible future presidential candidate — perhaps as early as 2020 — her apparent disregard for basic social media guidelines is rather glaring.
Her account has seen a massive rise in followers since she was confirmed as ambassador in January 2017. Politico puts the increase at “more than eightfold, to 1.6 million.” And one former diplomat thinks it’s pretty obvious what Haley is doing with her blend of personal and political posts.
“It doesn’t take a savvy political mind to identify that Haley is trying to attract American voters for 2024,” noted Brett Bruen, who helped craft the State Department’s social media guidelines.
Those guidelines were finalized near the end of President Obama’s second term. The manual makes it quite clear that employees who “engage in official communications on behalf of the Department … must not use personal social media accounts to do so.”
Instead, they ought to use official accounts with job titles in the handles, or at the very least a fully separate one with a bio that makes it clear it is not a personal account.
Yet Haley has never set up such an official account, and continues to use the personal one she also tweeted from as governor of South Carolina. Nor does she adhere to guidelines regarding retweets and sharing of personal opinions in tweets about current events or State Department news.
And Bruen’s observation that she is using the account to boost her profile seems borne out by the small details.
“Haley also retweets many statements from @USUN, often copying and pasting a tweet and putting the letters “RT” ahead of it — a method that gives her greater personal visibility in her followers’ feeds than a standard retweet, which does not reproduce the user’s profile picture,” Politico notes.
Haley’s apparent violation of clear social media guidelines don’t come as much of a surprise, though. In September 2017, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel said she had violated the Hatch Act in June 2017 by retweeting Trump’s endorsement of a South Carolina congressional candidate.
And despite the fact that Haley’s predecessor, Samantha Power, used an official handle during her time as ambassador, the State Department insists it isn’t necessary for Haley to do likewise because of the @USUN account, which represents the department as a whole.
The department can offer its own spin on why Haley’s Twitter usage is acceptable under its own guidelines when it clearly seems not to be.
But it can hardly be seen as professional behavior befitting a top diplomat to mix fluffy personal stories, seemingly official department statements, and her own opinions on issues of foreign affairs in one feed.
The country’s standing with our allies has taken a consistent nosedive under the current administration. Haley’s lack of concern for putting forth a professional demeanor on social media does nothing to counteract that downward momentum.
Of course, when one works for Trump, it’s perhaps predictable that rules and norms take a backseat to image-boosting and sounding off.