Report of the Director of Law.
5.1 Hazel Best (Principal Solicitor) introduced the report which followed on from a previous report at the last meeting on 5 July, where Members had considered an example of guidance on social media for members from another local authority. The update included proposed guidance for Members and a list of ‘dos and don’ts’.
5.2 During discussions, Councillor David Boothroyd welcomed the guidance and he felt the ‘dos and don’ts’ were set out clearly. In respect of the last bullet point on page 27 of the report, bullet point 4 under ‘Don’ts’, he suggested that this be made clearer and it was important that social media was not used to name individual officers. He also suggested that it be made clear that members’ own social media was not covered by the Council’s legal indemnity.
5.3 Councillor Patricia McAllister felt that the guidance used clear, straightforward language, although there could be further explanation with regard to ‘exercising caution.’ Councillor Danny Chalkey commented that the guidance was sound and encouraged Members to use common sense. Councillor Louise Hyams stated that social media could present an unpleasant aspect of what both councillors and officers could face.
5.4 Councillor Jonathan Glanz also felt the guidance offered sensible advice and queried what kind of protection the Council could offer where a councillor was being trolled, particularly where the troll was anonymous. He suggested that it also be spelt out that it was inappropriate for councillors to follow undesirable people on social media, including Twitter, as it would add credibility to such people, or to be linked to malicious sites that were defamatory and incited hatred. Asif Iqbal MBE (Independent Person) asked what steps were taken where councillors or officers were repeatedly victimised. He also suggested that ‘buzz’ words could be used to help reinforce messages in respect of Members’ use of social media.
5.5 In reply, Hazel Best advised that the Council could take action against those who abused councillors and officers on social media, and this had been done in the past. Tasmin Shawkat (Monitoring Officer) added that steps could be taken to help Members report such abuse and posts could be removed where the provider of the site in question was known. The Council could also report to the Police or to the web host in respect of repeated victimisation, although Tasnim Shawkat acknowledged this was more difficult where the attacks were anonymous.
5.6 The Chairman suggested that the list of ‘dos and don’ts’ be circulated on the Members bulletin on a regular basis, possibly every quarter, to publicise and remind members regarding use of social media. It could also be raised during Members’ development. A contact point should also be provided for members if they were encountering any issues on this matter.
5.7 Members agreed that bullet point 4 of ‘don’ts’ on the list of ‘dos and ‘don’ts’ also state that social media not be used to attack or insult Council staff whether in a person’s own name or anonymously.
That the draft guidance on use of social media by Members be agreed, subject to the amendment to bullet point 4 of Don’ts under ‘Dos and Don’ts’ as suggested above.