WALGA President Lynne Craigie has raised concerns about the impact of “deluded and vicious righteousness” on social media, linking the behaviour to the Swan mayor being attacked and decapitated rats dumped at Stirling councillors’ homes.
Cr Craigie discussed the issue during the WALGA AGM yesterday at the Perth Convention Centre.
“Along with many, I am concerned with the increasing smear social media is having on public life – what started out as a forum for shared experiences has quickly turned into a breeding ground for disparaging comments that are often untrue and frequently denigrating abuse,” she said.
“I saw worrying signs during the most recent local government elections – some elected members were exposed to unrelenting social media abuse from candidates and the community.
“I believe this deluded and vicious righteousness enabled by social media is causing the type of attitudes that have seen a mayor be physically attacked at a public meeting and other councillors have decapitated rodents dumped at their homes.”
Cr Craigie said the possibility of vexatious complaints had “always been a part of public life” but many in the sector were experiencing the behaviour more frequently.
“In some extreme cases, local governments have had their meetings and processes all but held hostage to repetitive nuisance enquiries from the public whipped up by social media,” she said.
Cr Craigie said she hoped the issue would be addressed in the Local Government Act review currently underway.
Local Government minister David Templeman announced yesterday a raft of changes coming out of the first phase of the review, including an online induction for council candidates to understand their role and laws covering campaigning.
He said he had never seen anything like last year’s local government elections.
“It was some of the most disgraceful behaviour quite frankly, particularly online on social media – appalling,” he said.