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Wisbech county councillor brands social media guidance as 'scary' and calls for a rethink

By Ben Hatton, Local Democracy Reporter

Cambridgeshire county councillors have rejected suggested council social media guidelines, which included advice against criticising the council.

Councillors were asked to approve new guidance which would apply to their use of social media at full council session yesterday (July 23).

Included was guidance against browsing “any material that could be considered inappropriate, offensive, defamatory, illegal or discriminatory”.

Councillor Samantha Hoy.
Councillor Samantha Hoy.

Conservative councillor Samantha Hoy, who brought the amendment to think again on the plans, said some of the guidance was “scary” and could intrude into councillor’s private lives.

Liberal Democrat councillor Amanda Taylor said it “risks undermining basic rights such as freedom of expression and the right to a private life”.

The guidance also asked councillors not to post anything that “could reasonably be perceived as reflecting badly upon or lowering the reputation of yourself as a councillor or the council.”

A note was added saying “it is expected that Councillors will engage in political discourse”.

Coun Taylor told the chamber: “As councillors it’s our job to monitor what the council does and present it to our residents – we all have a role as a critical friend”.

She said residents would expect councillors to “give an honest view” of what the council does.

Also included was guidance not to tweet in haste when tired, to double check facts are accurate, and to “avoid the difficult users, don’t get bogged down, you don’t have to respond to everything”.

Coun Taylor said some of the guidance was “patronising”.

Coun Hoy said it was “unenforceable”. “Who defines what’s tired? How would you ever police that,” she asked.

The council voted to revise the guidance, which had been agreed by the Constitution and Ethics Committee last month.

The council’s deputy leader, Conservative Roger Hickford, said: “I understand a lot of the concerns. I’m very happy to look at this again and try to make it look more appropriate”.

Categories: Conduct Policy

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