A CALL for Cockermouth Town Council to use social media has been knocked back by councillors who called it a “minefield” which was best avoided.
Councillor Rebecca Hanson proposed that the council use social media to share information more effectively and “provide a public forum for positive discussion in Cockermouth”.
But councillors spoke of the abusive comments on town Facebook pages – regarding various issues including the sale of the youth hostel, library and plans for a B&M on Low Road – and felt they would be inviting problems.
“Social media brings with it discussion. We have problems in Cockermouth in that discussions have been taking place in groups that are effectively unmoderated. They allow hate comments, untrue comments and deeply personal attacks,” said Councillor Hanson.
“But if basic rules are put in place it’s quite a safe place to be.
“It’s fine for people to criticise people’s opinions and actions but you do not allow abuse. It’s very easy to implement that standard, people learn pretty quickly.
“We need this. The people who hand out abuse have a very loud voice and a big platform. Most people do not want to be there, they dislike that culture and would prefer to be involved with a source that is moderated.”
Councillor Alan Smith said: “If you want personal Facebook that’s fine but as a group it’s dynamite, it can get out of hand and leave us open to abuse.
“In the past six to eight weeks there’s been a split in the town on social media, it’s unbelievable what I’ve seen people talking about.
“I would not go on social media to share a point of view, I do not want to put myself open to abuse
“There are problems in this town, we need as a town council to put out the right message but I would draw the line at asking for comments.”
Councillor Eric Nicholson said: “I’m not a fan of social media, it just spreads fake news and there’s no redress, it’s getting worse.
“I support providing information but not accepting feedback.”
Councillor Len Davies described it as a “minefield” which should be best avoided.
Councillor Hanson said: “I have taken a lot of abuse on sites in Cockermouth, I stand in the way when abuse is involved. It would all resolve if we did this.
“People run away from existing groups because they’re scared, we need a moderated forum.
“Social media is not evil, by not supporting this we are supporting the problem and it’s continuing. We can resolve that problem.”
Councillor Alan Tyson said: “I think it becomes very difficult for councillors, it’s better that people actually speak to them.”
Councillor Hanson said: “I propose we make a gentle start with social media, set it up, broadcast information and have basic moderation. We can stop if there are problems.”
No one seconded her proposal.
Councillor David Malloy said: “As an advertising vehicle for town events it’s fantastic but it has to be non comment.
“There’s going to be a new council in three months time, I think this is one for them to decide.”