Tay wants to correct 'misinformation' by creating social media code of conduct

·3 min read

Tay Township wants to streamline its social media policy to quell "misinformation" councillors say uninformed residents are spreading online.

The policy will also have rules guiding council and staff members around how to address such situations on social media, said Coun. Paul Raymond, presenting a verbal report to committee of council at a recent meeting.

"Anything I suggest today to this committee is for all terms to come," he said. "We're getting close to releasing our Tay Township Facebook page and I think that should be the be-all, end-all of information for the township. All councillors should send residents to that page for information."

The other issue that has come up is around the use of social media during elections, said Raymond.

"If we want to level the playing field between incumbents and new candidates, there should be some kind of built-in restrictions that prevent an incumbent candidate from using his existing Facebook page and having to create one for election purposes only," he said.

Other council members were also on the same page.

"We all know it's getting out of hand on social media," said Coun. Mary Warnock. "I kind of cruise the hubs but don't participate. The big topic this past month was the water bill. All the information being put out there by residents was incorrect. I think it's a fact they don't know what's going on or they haven't researched."

She said it would be better to have one source of information on social media putting out the township's message.

"It upsets me to see incorrect information out there, but I don't engage," said Warnock. "I'd like the residents to have the ability to go out there and get the information. The misinformation just explodes. I'd rather see the right message going out."

Mayor Ted Walker said this was recognized as an issue from day one of this council's term. "Anything you say on social media could be taken as the township's position," he said. "We now have a professional person, who can, through Facebook deal with this. I'm looking forward to this because I've seen some stuff posted that just irked me to no end, some of it coming from council, and other members of council that don't participate on Facebook had no opportunity to reply."

Deputy Mayor Gerard LaChapelle asked whether staff monitors social media hubs to pick up on topics of concern to be included in the township's newsletters? Raymond said he wouldn't support that move. 'That's going to take up staff time," he said. "If people have an issue, they can pick up the phone or send an email." Walker agreed: "I think the only Facebook page our staff will need to monitor is our own. I wish we could talk our residents into subscribing to our information service."

Committee decided to recommend to council that the township reach out to its integrity commissioner to draft a municipal code of conduct around social media.

The decision will be ratified at a future council meeting.

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com