The Blue Mountains are moving forward with a plan to create a city Facebook page, but council members remain concerned about a recommendation to allow public comments on the site.
The Council, at its April 26 Committee of the Whole meeting, reviewed and debated a staff report highlighting an updated social media strategy and policy, which included a recommendation to create a Facebook page for the city that would allow public comment on each city post.
The public comment portion of the recommendation sparked consternation around the council table and much debate, with councilors noting that the open public comments had caused serious problems on neighboring community Facebook pages, with the town of Wasaga Beach having eventually disabled comments on his Facebook page.
Tim Hendry, Manager of Communications and Economic Development and Carling Fee, Coordinator of Communications and Economic Development presented the policy to the Board.
“Social media is a useful tool for information,” Hendry said.
Staff recommended allowing public comments on the Facebook page and explained that the social media strategy provides staff with ways to moderate and, if necessary, remove inappropriate comments. However, staff acknowledged that the Facebook page would be monitored during normal business hours and not at night and on weekends.
Board members raised several concerns about the comments recommendation, including: legal liability and the responsibility placed on staff to monitor the comments section.
“It’s definitely a difficult balancing act. In the extreme case that there are people abusing this, they can be blocked from posting,” said Mayor Alar Soever.
Councilor Paula Hope said a town Facebook page is a new way for the municipality to engage with residents and the community.
“I would be pretty strongly supportive that we need this platform,” Hope said. “Worth a try. If there’s a problem, it’s something we can check and review.
The possibility of legal liability for comments posted on the city’s future Facebook page, during times when staff are unable to monitor the site, weighed heavily on council members.
“I’m getting less and less comfortable with the comments section being on all the time,” Councilor Rob Sampson said as the discussion progressed.
Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon had similar concerns.
“The responsibility outweighs the benefits of having a comment section,” Bordignon said.
Advisors asked staff if it was possible for the Facebook page to disable the comment section during times when monitoring is not possible. Staff said they would research the matter further and report back to council in the near future.
“There’s no way not to take risk. The best defense is good policy,” said Chief Legal Officer Will Thomson. “Can we make risk zero? No, we can’t. , but hopefully the benefits outweigh the risks.
Mayor Soever recommended a “short leash” for any commenters posting abusive or inappropriate material, with those posts being removed immediately.
“Ninety-nine percent of our residents will use it responsibly. There will be some who won’t,” he said. “I don’t want to disadvantage the 99% because of the 1% who don’t know how to be responsible.”
The committee voted to proceed with the creation of a town Facebook page and staff members will report back to provide more information and answers to council’s outstanding questions on the recommendation to allow comments on the page. .
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