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Waipā District Council turns off Facebook comments citing ‘nasty’ abuse

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Waipā District Council has turned off comments on information-only posts on its Facebook page, starting this month.

Waipā District Council has turned off comments on information-only posts on its Facebook page, starting this month.

The decision follows Nelson City Council’s April 25 announcement it was turning off comments amidst concerns of misplaced rage, unfair criticism of staff and misinformation.

Waipā District Council chief executive Garry Dyet said the council’s Facebook interactions were dominated by “a few individuals.

“We welcome healthy debate but what we have seen in recent months is an uprising of disrespect towards staff and, most recently, between the community itself,” Dyet said.

Dyet said having staff become subjected to name-calling and other nasty comments was “simply not okay.

“I’m simply not prepared to provide platforms so that staff, elected members and our contractors can be abused, ridiculed and discredited,” he said.

“Nor do I want to see good-hearted folk who give us meaningful feedback being cut down in a vitriolic way.

“At the moment our limited resources are being sucked up into pandering to a small group of people and our time would be far better spent delivering more positive things for our community.”

Dyet said the council would continue to welcome respectful interactions with the community via phone, email or face-to-face.

The council would also still use its social channels to gather feedback “on occasion”.

Waipa District Council chief executive Garry Dyet. Photo / Dean Taylor
Waipa District Council chief executive Garry Dyet. Photo / Dean Taylor

“We want respectful interactions with our community. That is the very reason we are here. However, the time spent reacting to keyboard agitators is taking staff away from doing things that can really make a difference.”

Meanwhile, Hamilton City Council general manager of partnerships, communications and Maaori Janet Carson said the city council had about 37,000 followers on Facebook and thousands of engagements on the platform every month but most interactions with Hamiltonians took place face-to-face.

“Whether it’s people visiting our pools and libraries, the customer team for services like building consents and animal control, their talks with City Safe, at community events or attending council meetings,” Carson told the Waikato Herald.

“Facebook is a relatively small part of how we connect with Hamiltonians and the majority of social media engagement is positive and constructive.”

However, Carson said there the council had seen a rise in abusive comments online including people pushing agendas and false information through social media.

“Our social media policy is effective in dealing with these,” Carson said.

“Like many councils, we see a few people who make repeated derogatory statements or unpleasant comments.

“Compared to the thousands that interact online with us, they are a tiny minority, and we can effectively manage these few instances via our existing terms and conditions.”

Hamilton City Council general manager of partnerships, communications and Maaori Janet Carson.
Hamilton City Council general manager of partnerships, communications and Maaori Janet Carson.

Carson said the council already restricted comments on posts which attracted “significant abuse”, particularly if comments were deliberately targeting a section of the community.

“We also already turn off comments for periods where it is unsustainable for our people to monitor.”

Carson said the Hamilton City Council did not see a need to apply a blanket no-comment approach to their social media pages at this stage.

Waipā District Council’s decision came after a Nelson City Council review of three months’ Facebook data found approximately 25 per cent of comments on its pages were from 46 people, Radio New Zealand reported.

Nelson City Council communications manager James Murray told RNZ in April those 46 people were “not a representative cross-section” of the city.

“The time council staff have to spend moderating comments for abuse and misinformation is not a good use of ratepayer money,” Murray said.

Maryana Garcia is a Hamilton-based multimedia reporter covering breaking news in Waikato. She previously wrote for the Rotorua Daily Post and Bay of Plenty Times.



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