With two local government elections underway and others on the horizon, I thought it would be an ideal time to raise the issues of cyberbullying, trolling and other challenges social media can generate.
Before social media, community feedback was provided face-to-face in the street or by letters written by hand or typed by an individual or on behalf of a group. Candidate campaigns were conducted by flyers, door knocks and through community meetings.
While all these things still happen, social media has provided local governments, elected members and the community with a powerful communication and networking tool which has become part of local government communications and our everyday life privately and professionally.
Monitoring multiple social media feeds has now become required practice for most active elected members. This additional workload is part of the cost of using social media and further proof that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Monitoring and responding, controlling, deleting, blocking, editing and other measures must be expected to be undertaken by users as they are live media channels but, unfortunately, all too often online abusers choose to hide behind anonymity.
At its worst, social media has a menacing, dark side that has proved to be widespread across cultures, generations and workplaces and has contributed to an online environment of intolerance, bullying and abuse.
Following several incidences of social media cyber abuse towards elected members in WA, Ricky Burgess, CEO of the Western Australian Local Government Association, raised this issue with ALGA, specifically highlighting concerns about the consequential effects cyberbullying has on the wellbeing of elected members and employees.
ALGA met with the office of the eSafety Commissioner to discuss these concerns and to investigate possible solutions. The Office provided a suite of information and tools to assist local government elected officials and staff in dealing with cyber-abuse, which I thought would be useful to share with you.
The eSafety website has a range of resources that can assist all Australians with regards to cyber-abuse.
In particular, there are tips and advice that are relevant to local government in the following areas:
- Cyber-abuse and the actions you can take
- eSafety for women
- Image-based abuse
Here are the relevant links:
You can also support Safer Internet Day, which will be held on Tuesday 5 February 2019, to help make the internet a safer place for everyone.
I hope this information will be of assistance to all elected members and employees of local government, and I encourage you to share it with your colleagues, and to consider incorporating it into any training on communications and appropriate conduct.
All the best for those campaigning this weekend,
Mayor David O’Loughlin