Melville councillors adopt new social media guidelines

A new policy that provides guidance to Melville councillors using social media has been adopted.
A new policy that provides guidance to Melville councillors using social media has been adopted.

A NEW policy that provides guidance to Melville councillors using social media has been adopted.

Councillors carried unanimously the “Elected Members Social Media Policy”, which asks them to do things including label online posts as personal views, avoid offensive, defamatory, and intimidating language, maintain a positive and respectful tone, and ensure alternative opinions are made respectfully.

While it was strongly supported, the item took about 40 minutes to be voted through.

That was because councillor Nicholas Pazolli called for the inclusion of a point ensuring elected members could not post about council matters under a pseudonym.

His amendment, lost 8-5, also asked councillors ensure they did not encourage other people to post on social matters under a fake account on behalf of elected members.

He acknowledged providing evidence of such activity would be difficult.

“However at some stage evidence of such activity may be found or advancements in IT or social media applications may evolve to the extent that it becomes possible to identify those posting using fake social media IDs,” he said.

“When that happens, without a clause like this in the social media policy, it will not be possible to bring an offending elected member to account for their behaviour.”

He said even without such evidence or advancements, it was necessary for the policy to state that concealing social media postings under a fake username was not acceptable.

Cr Patricia Phelan said it would be hard to police and was unnecessary.

“I don’t think this council or any future council would need it and if we do end up with people on council who have fake profiles and are trolling, let future technology take care of them,” she said.

Cr Karen Wheatland argued the policy could go further and be included in the code of conduct.

“I think we need to lead the way with a code of conduct of elected members and start setting an example for those other trolls out there in the community,” she said.

The new policy was also adopted without changes suggested by the Melville Residents and Ratepayers Association (MRRA) at a briefing earlier in the month.

The association argued it had come under attack online from associates of councillors and even family of elected members, believing “the policy should contain some very express guidance” for partner of councillors.

Local Government Minister David Templeman said in October the conduct of councillors online was being considered as part of a review of the Local Government Act.

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