While the 115 cardinal electors who just elected a new pope were bound by a vow of silence and hence could not tweet during the conclave, Australian MPs are not. However, at one point, House Speaker Anna Burke was asked to consider banning the use of social media while the sessions are ongoing.
She did not push through with the prohibition, but warned them to be careful with their use of social media such as Twitter and Facebook which are popular venues for posting one's sentiments about issues.
The issue of tweets cropped up on Tuesday when Ms Burke was asked during Question Hour to order Labor MP Steve Gibbons to delete a comment he posted on microblogging site Twitter about Opposition leader Tony Abbott.
The tweet read: "Looks like @tonyabbottmhr has contracted out his nasty side to interjectors in the public gallery. A new low even for the Libs!"
Mr Gibbons had previously been criticised by Senator Michaela Cash for his sexist tweets.
The Tuesday tweet referred to an incident when a man in the public gallery shouted "You liar" after Prime Minister Julia Gillard answered a question about the budget during the Question Hour. It was followed by a woman who said, "Juliar" which prompted Ms Burke to order the two and several other protesters escorted out of the public gallery section.
After a day of mulling over the incident, Ms Burke said on Wednesday that she cannot rule on an MP's private communications but reminded the legislators that "they should have regard for the perceptions the wider community will have (on) any comments that is made by them including by social media."
She stressed that her role is to adjudicate on the House's proceedings. "It is not practical to extend this role to adjudicating on a range of matters incidental to proceedings, such as private communications, conversations or use of social media when it is thought they have come from the chamber," she pointed out.
Ms Burke said MPs who tweet are not protected by parliamentary privilege.
Mr Abbott, although he had several word spars with Ms Gillard, denied he had anything to do with the verbal abuse on the prime minister. "It doesn't matter what they think of her policies or her government, they should be polite to her," 2GB quoted the Coalition leader who was once called by Ms Gillard in Parliament a misogynist.
As a result of the Tuesday incident, the Sydney Morning Herald held a poll which found that almost 75 per cent of respondents felt that tweeting during Question Hour is a distraction.