Spike in SDRC complaints expected as local elections loom
SOUTHERN Downs councillors have been told social media should "not be used to shut down debate” under a new set of guidelines for local politicians that has come into play ahead of council elections.
How to deal with online attacks and rules for moderating comments are recommendations that form part of the new rulebook that was handed down by Local Government minister Stirling Hinchliffe in a bid to minimise complaints.
Mr Hinchliffe said the purpose was to help politicians manage their social media accounts and online presence.
"Councillor complaints tend to spike ahead of elections, so these new guidelines are particularly relevant leading into the March 2020 Local Government polls,” he said.
"They're designed to assist councillors in their interactions with other social media users, and to avoid the unnecessary conflict and complaints.
The guidelines set out how councillors can deal with abusive, threatening and obscene social media posts and minimise the risk of complaints.
Mr Hinchliffe said social media was an important communication tool that allowed people to participate in "open and constructive” conversation.
"It shouldn't be used by councillors to shut down debate or block users they consider a nuisance,” he said.
"Councillors should never have to tolerate trolling or abuse, and by following these guidelines they can both protect themselves and minimise the risk of complaints.”
The guide outlines
rules for moderating comments and how to recognise and capture posts which are public records.
It also tells councillors how to manage election campaign platforms and what to do about social media sites that are set up to attack councillors.
Mr Hinchliffe said the OIA is now dealing with more than 600 complaints, including 36 complaints relating to the use of social media.
"Councillors who are identifiable as a councillor on a social media platform need to be aware their conduct on that site is subject to the Councillor Code of Conduct,” he said.