Feigl defends Faymann’s Facebook finances

The chancellor’s social media manager has justified the high costs of his cyber activities.

Angelika Feigl said today (Fri) expenses were not just spent on Werner Faymann’s Facebook and Twitter accounts but also on a new homepage and a smartphone app. The Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) leader’s office informed the Freedom Party (FPÖ) earlier this week that Faymann’s office spent 55,000 Euros on the conception of his presence on the social networking sites. Faymann’s office also said in the reaction to a parliamentary request issued by the FPÖ that maintenance costs may range around 2,000 Euros a month.

Feigl told Die Presse today that information and credibility mattered the most to her team. She said: “We are not campaigning and we do not engage in party politics. We are working for the head of a government.”

The chancellor’s social media chief admitted that her team “started the matter too bureaucratically. We have been accused of lacking humour. But we are assigned by a governmental office. Such an institution does not want to and must not present itself like a private user (of social interaction internet sites).”

Feigl claimed opposition politicians had the chance to approach social media differently too. The FPÖ is not only catching up with the SPÖ in polls. Its leader Heinz-Christian Strache can also pride himself as the country’s most popular politician on the internet. The rightist populist has more friends on Facebook than any other domestic lawmaker. However, he also has to cope with enormous criticism of his policies both online and on the street. Anti-FPÖ campaigners created a Facebook profile for a “soulless brick” to find out whether it could have more friends than Strache. They achieved their goal within weeks.

Feigl claimed nine people were needed to nurse Faymann’s activities in the World Wide Web (WWW). Speaking to Die Presse, she emphasised that only two staff members were maintaining the chancellor’s profiles on Facebook and Twitter full-time. Asked for her stance on a mysterious and immensely popular Twitter prankster called Failmann, she said: “Satire is fine. Some of it is quite amusing, a few things (Failmann posted) are exaggerations. We are relaxed about it.”

Faymann’s social media manager vowed to check who was behind the sending of allegedly forged e-mails. The fake letters to the editor – mailed to leading papers such as Heute and Kurier – were sent from an internet server of the SPÖ. Feigl reiterated the party’s suspicions that political competitors could have orchestrated the initiative. At least 393 e-mails signed by nonexistent people have been sent to the Kurier in the past two years, the daily paper reported yesterday.

“We certainly do not want fake profiles,” she said referring to apparently made-up accounts on Facebook linked to Faymann’s profile before his team broke the ties. The alleged Faymann fans did little else on Facebook but lauding the chancellor’s fight for social fairness and his engagement for the country’s poor.

Meanwhile, a poll shows that support for Faymann is waning. OGM found that 20 per cent of Austrians would vote for the ex-traffic minister were they allowed to name the chancellor in a direct election – a voting procedure which does not exist in the country. This is a decline of five per cent compared to September. The SPÖ forms a coalition with the ÖVP. The conservative party’s chairman Michael Spindelegger finds support of 20 per cent as well in the OGM check which was published today, up by one per cent. Strache kept his share stable at 17 per cent.