Social media these days can be a pretty grim place at times.
Stephen Fry a while back described the darkening of some people’s attitudes and the more sinister trolling as like seeing a turd released in once beautiful pool.
This week I was reminded what he meant when I read comments posted to Birmingham Live’s mosque attack coverage from a minority of people.
If you missed the news, five mosques were attacked overnight by someone armed with a hammer across Birmingham. Coming days after the murder of 49 Muslim workshippers in New Zealand this is a build of tension that wasn’t welcome by reasonable people.
The state of abusive comments in 2019
Marc Reeves, editor-in-chief at Reach Midlands who looks after Birmingham Live once remarked that you were never more than seven or eight comments away from a racist comment.
It’s a comment that may strike a chord with anyone who looks after a public sector Facebook page, too. I’ve seen posts on plans for a new mosque, the welcome of Syrian refugees or the return of the London schoolgirl ISIS recruit that I’d hate my children to see.
The need to admin your Facebook page at key times
There is a clear need and responsibility to keep a close eye on Facebook comments at key times. Social is social. People will talk to you. But just because they can doesn’t mean you should tolerate abuse to yourself or any sector of the population.
Birmingham Live assigned a member of staff to keeping an eye on moderating comments. At a time of thin resources it would have been easier to have not to and maybe even for a media company to encourage it to generate traffic.
But media companies just as the public sector have a heavy moral duty not to allow the abuse of anyone.
Hats off then to Birmingham Live’s politics and people editor Jane Haynes who tweeted this:
One colleague spent much of today moderating comments on social media channels. We felt it was important to let people share insights and messages of solidarity, but with that collective responsibility we also had to scan for and be alert to hate speech
— Jane Haynes (@JaneRockHouse) March 21, 2019
The need not to duck
There’s a temptation to duck out of posting about that refugee family who are being housed in the borough or about the mosque attack.
I seriously don’t think that anyone should. That’s giving in and I don’t think that will make for a better world to live in.
But I do think you need back-up to moderate the comments.