Council boss calls for an end to social media abuse

By Sadie Beckman

Horowhenua District Council chief executive David Clapperton says some online comments are counter-productive. Photo: File.
Horowhenua District Council chief executive David Clapperton says some online comments are counter-productive. Photo: File.

Horowhenua District Council has called for an end to horrid Facebook messages after posts insulting staff, councillors and their families were allegedly posted on the social media platform.

Horowhenua District Council chief executive David Clapperton issued a media release stating a number of comments had been made on a variety of Facebook pages.

"Social media can be a fantastic platform to connect, communicate and receive information," he said.

"However, it can also be a negative platform, and unfortunately there seem to be a few in our community using it in this negative and counter-productive way," he said.

Horowhenua District Mayor Michael Feyen has also shared a video on his Facebook page discouraging negative comments.

On the video, he showed a lawyer's letter council had requested to provide information around recourse for abusive or insulting comments and their legal implications.

Feyen said his own approach to social media, including an open and transparent forum for members of the community to voice their opinions had been the first time many people had really been able to question Horowhenua District Council directly, and perhaps some posters had gone a little far, if any kind of personal insult was used.

Clapperton said there could potentially be legal issues around some of the comments in question.

Under the Harmful Digital Communications Act, a digital communication is defined as harmful if it discloses sensitive personal facts about an individual, is threatening, intimidating or menacing, is "grossly offensive to a reasonable person in the position of the affected individual", harasses an individual, makes a false allegation or incites or encourages an individual to commit suicide.

The Act covers private messages as well as publicly shared posts, and applies to emails, text messages and photos as well as social media posts, with hefty fines or even imprisonment resulting from conviction in worst case scenarios.

"We always welcome frank and fair discussion at Horowhenua District Council, and the majority of our community members positively contribute," said Clapperton.

"However derogatory and defamatory comments are not only viewed as bullying, but are also unproductive."

- Horowhenua Chronicle

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