Slip-ups ... politicians have criticised each other on Twitter, leading to the Liberals' alleged clampdown.
LIBERAL PARTY candidates have been gagged before next year's federal election, with Coalition backbench MPs under pressure to close their Twitter and other social media accounts.
In an opposition bid to limit ''stuff-ups and scandals'', Fairfax Media has learnt of a directive from the head office of the federal Liberal Party to preselected candidates that ''strongly advises'' against using Twitter, and tweeting on behalf of the Liberal Party is ''not encouraged''.
Several Liberal backbenchers have confirmed the strict measure, which was decided at the start of last month, with one MP saying the party was sending a clear message ''that depending on your seniority, use a great deal of caution when tweeting, and it is preferred that most MPs closed our social media accounts''.
''It is a way to limit the stuff-up and scandals obviously but it seems a little draconian to me,'' the MP said. ''I wouldn't go as far as to say this is a free speech issue but if I was pushed to close my account outright, then you would hear from me loud and clear. On Twitter and elsewhere.''
Another MP said the decision was ''outrageous'' and a ''result of a bunch of nervous nellies in the head office who think we aren't capable of running our own offices without falling over our own feet''.
Calls to the Liberal Party federal secretariat for comment were not returned.
A spokesman for the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said this issue was a matter for the national executive branch.
It is understood preselected Liberal candidates in Western Sydney were the first to be told of the Twitter blackout and several have privately made their displeasure clear to local party branches.
Labor MP Steve Gibbons caused a stir in the last sitting week of Federal Parliament by calling Mr Abbott a ''gutless douchebag'' and the Deputy Opposition Leader, Julie Bishop, a ''narcissistic bimbo'' on Twitter.
The tweet caused immediate problems for Labor, given the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard's, aggressive campaign against what she has called the Opposition Leader's misogyny.
In May, Liberal MP Kelly O'Dwyer defended controversial comments she made on the social media site about foreign workers and an overseas-born Labor senator as ''clearly ironic''.
In September, Liberal council candidate Matthew Hammon was forced to resign from the party when he sent a series of racially provocative tweets criticising Muslims in the aftermath of the anti-Islam film riot in Sydney.
The federal move to limit the use of Twitter is not the first time the Liberal Party has imposed a gag on candidates.
Last year, Queensland Liberal National Party candidates were encouraged to use Facebook rather than Twitter to connect with voters and avoid slip-ups before the state election.