Calls for councillor Facebook policy

Published:
21/05/2020

Northern Beaches Councillor Candy Bingham will push for her fellow councillors to adopt a social media policy after comments regarding the recent budget became heated online.

The budget, adopted in early May, has been a source of intense debate between councillors after it included a maximum rate increase of 2.6 per cent. 

While the rate rise is in line with the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s (IPART’s) set rate-peg, some have maintained an increase at this time is detrimental to locals financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Deputy Mayor Bingham, after a few councillors took to social media to voice their stance the debate became personal in nature. 

“I think that social media at the moment is being used to intentionally mislead the public and put down other councillors and the mayor,” she tells Peninsula Living.  

“As councillors, it’s our responsibility to communicate with the community about what council is doing. That’s our job. But, unfortunately, Facebook is not being used appropriately at the moment, so it’s causing a lot of angst.”

Councillor Bingham will propose the development of a social media policy at May's council meeting to guide councillors on how to avoid defamatory content or comments online. 

“As councillors, we’re leaving ourselves exposed to possible litigation unless there is a policy so people know very clearly what they can and can’t do under the defamation act.

“Often people are not aware that if you’re attracting a certain type of people who keep putting up comments all the time that are degrading other people, then you are responsible. Not the person who wrote the comment.”

However, Narrabeen ward councillor Vincent De Luca says he believes the policy could result in ‘censorship’. 

“Her motion is an effort to try and silence debate about her, the mayor and councillors voting to increase their own salaries and resident's rates,” he tells Peninsula Living

“Since Mayor Regan and Deputy Mayor Bingham have voted to increase rates and their salaries, there has been a massive back lash against them on Facebook.

“Perhaps they should listen to concerns and rescind their salary and rate rises."

Councillor Bingham maintains that any social media policy would be carefully worded to allow for councillors to express their stance on local issues.

“It provides a protection for the council and councillors to have such a policy, but I certainly will be making sure it doesn’t affect our democratic right to have our opinions. That is very important.”

Author:
Stephanie Aikins

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