Senate questions ABC social media policy

Hashtag #budgies deemed inappropriate by Liberal senators.

A Senate budget estimates hearing has questioned the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) over the use of specific hashtag during the broadcaster's Budget coverage.

Liberal Senator Mathias Cormann quizzed the ABC managing director, Mark Scott, about whether the use of the hashtag #budgies was appropriate in tweets from the ABC News Twitter account about Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott's budget reply.

The use of the term "budgies" refers to the speedos - or "budgie smugglers" - worn by Abbott when competing in triathlons and other sporting events.

Cormann asked Scott whether it was appropriate for the ABC to use such hashtags. Scott defended its use, saying the hashtag was chosen by the Twitter community, and ABC News was simply joining the conversation.

"That week there was debate around, would it be #budget10 or #Swanbudget, and then a group of people on Twtiter came up with the hashtag on Twitter," Scott said.

"Somebody - I imagine not at the ABC - but some other journalists, came up with that identifying tag for the Leader of the Opposition's reply. I appreciate that there may be questions for whether that was an appropriate hashtag for the ABC to use, and we will look at it in that context."

Scott pointed out that the hashtag was used in order to be searchable by Twitter users who were following the conversation surrounding the budget reply, and not ABC News' Twitter account itself.

The ABC, like several media companies, has been known to use Twitter in supplement to existing content. This has included the use of a Twitter stream in discussion panel show, Q and A.

"Members of the Twitter community identified the hashtag #QandA as the method they wanted to use, in a sense, to organise the conversation they were having around the program," Scott said. "At the ABC we discovered there were hundreds and thousands of messages that were being sent, and the way you could find them was by using the hash #QandA."

Senator Conroy, also present at the hearing, offered the hashtag #lycra as an alternative to #budgies.

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