One of the hottest (and long-standing) topics about government and social media is comment moderation and social engagement. Last year, CBC ran an article about the federal government blocking accounts and deleting comments, which itself sparked over 1,700 comments on CBC’s website. Proponents of open commenting cite freedom of speech, transparent government, and citizen engagement as reasons to limit the powers of moderators. Yet government agencies have a responsibility to correct misinformation, foster a safe and respectful online community, and protect private or confidential information.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when moderating government social media accounts:
Develop and publish clear user policies
To ensure consistent moderation, social media teams, whether governmental or corporate, must develop user guidelines or policies. These not only help moderators decide what to delete, but also help them justify blocking users. For instance, here are the grounds on which Public Services and Procurement Canada may block users or delete comments taken from their guidelines.
Allow negative comments and don’t reply to everything
Though it might be hard, allowing negative comments gives legitimacy to the claim that your organization is listening to citizens’ concerns. Plus, you respect the principles of freedom of speech and citizen engagement. If you respond to every comment, users may not interact with each other and your organization will appear defensive.
Forward valid comments to the right people
It’s one thing to allow comments, but quite another to do something about them. Though social media moderators aren’t usually the subject matter experts, they should have clear guidelines for what feedback to report on.
Document deleted posts and private messages
Governments have an obligation to archive information. When it comes to deleting posts or moderating offensive behaviour, it’s important to keep proof. As this article rightly suggests, it’s not enough to preserve the deleted comments, but you should keep records of the context in which the offense occurred.
If you’re developing or revamping your organization’s social media strategy, be sure to include a section on community moderation. Jay Majumdar has a great article on best practices for moderating if you want to read more.
I’d love to hear more about how your organization manages comments. Share your thoughts below!
Moderate a social media account for a government agency? Read my most recent blog post for 4 essential tips: bit.ly/2CJWCVU
4 Tips for Moderating Comments on Government Social Media: bit.ly/2CJWCVU