Council addresses social media policy

Trail council can talk turkey all they want on their personal Facebook pages – as long as there's an “in my opinion” attached.

Trail council can talk turkey all they want on their personal Facebook pages – as long as there’s an “in my opinion” attached.

Following considerable back-and-forth at Wednesday’s governance meeting, city council agreed unanimously that the disclaimer has to be included when either posting or re-posting (with commentary) City of Trail-related business on the elected officials’ personal social media sites.

The guideline follows Trail council’s stamp on a social media policy last month that delegates city news postings to Communications Officer Andrea Jolly.

However, the recommendation went one step further, citing that social media profiles and websites representing members of council will not act as official information platforms on behalf of the city.

City staff asked that council acknowledge that it is not their role to report directly on city-related business rather they use their personal sites as asecondary information source and also suggested the use of strong privacy settings to avoid discrediting comments or images.

Coun. Robert Cacchioni responded that the proposed policy amendment was stifling and could be perceived as a gag order on council.

“I am absolutely opposed,” he said. “I am not an employee of the city, I am an elected representative and I find it offensive that we are going to start restricting what council members may or may not say.”

Coun. Lisa Pasin explained that during the Dec. 15 governance meeting, the consensus was that messages posted to the public must be consistent with decisions made in council.

“If it was something other than that to be posted, you have the freedom to do that,” she said. “But make the caveat that it was in your opinion.”

The city’s policy is a forward thinking approach to what can happen on social media sites, according to David Perehudoff, Trail’s chief administrative officer.

“I think sometimes it’s good to be proactive rather than reactive,” he said. “And anticipate things that can occur on social media, like lawsuits. Having a policy to defend is advantageous.”

The growth in the city’s Facebook page and Twitter account in just one year, lead city staff to recommend principals for providing accurate information and positive engagement to its thousand-plus followers.

“The intent behind the revised social media policy is to ensure constituents know that unless councillors are forwarding information on their respective social media sites from the communication sites of the City of Trail,” explained Trail Mayor Mike Martin. “Then the information or commentary on City of Trail business is in the opinion of the individual councillor.”

Earlier this year, Fruitvale advanced a social media policy prior to launching the village’s Facebook page. Those guidelines are clear and stipulate the site is only for corporate messages, including event postings, notifications to residents and information of public interest. Although the Montrose Facebook page doesn’t have much traffic yet, the site is growing as posts about community events increase.

Village council reviewed its two-year social media policy, which uses a common sense approach stipulating slanderous, obscene and political posts aren’t permitted.

Elsewhere, Rossland and Warfield don’t have guidelines in place.