The Indian government's social media experiment appears to have backfired after a local bureaucrat's outburst was unintentionally broadcast at the end of a Google+ Hangout.
The country's Planning Commission on Friday evening turned to social media tools such as Twitter and Google+ to promote the country's 12th Five Year Plan, which sets the short-term political, economic, and social agenda. But the real-time, raw value of social media hit the government's face in the dying seconds of the broadcast when Syeda Hameed, a member of the Planning Commission, vented about the sham Google-sponsored exercise.
After the event seemingly had ended, the Google+ Hangout feed--which autmoatically focuses on the person who exhibits the most movement--shifted to Hameed as she rose from her chair and declared: "This is a very elite medium!" Hameed was apparently oblivious to the fact her comments were still being broadcast.
"I just want to say not one question came up about scheduled castes, about schedule tribes, not minorities," she accused, while pointing her finger at the head of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
During the barrage, Ahluwalia shuffled awkwardly in his chair and guiltily stole glances from the camera, which was now focused on his moves.
Hameed's colleague, Abhijit Sen, unsuccessfully attempted to calm the storm. That job would be performed by Google's technology, as the official continued her rant: "And the only one question that came up and challenged people --" The feed stopped and cut her off mid sentence.
The events seem jinxed by the final remarks from National Innovation Council chairman Sam Pitroda: "I was worried we might have a glitch here and there--glad we did not," Pitroda said moments before the outburst.
He also announced a hackathon to convert 12th Year Plan data into visualizations, short films, and mobile apps. However, the Web site crashed soon after, which drew the online crowd's first of laughs of the day.
Pitroda later thanked his colleagues when he tweeted a link to the YouTube video, which stopped just before the unplanned final exchange. Hameed was curiously absent from his list.
The otherwise tightly moderated Q&A session was welcomed by some viewers on Twitter, however, the government's sterilized answers frustrated others. "The Hangout is good to hear...but not truly participatory in nature. 12th Plan talks about including suggestions from 900 community service organizations but not even one has been included in the panel!" Priyanka Singh wrote on the Hangout chat.