The City of Duncan will discontinue commenting on its Facebook page.
Council made the unanimous decision at its meeting on June 20 after a staff report recommended it.
Allison Boyd, Duncan’s corporate services coordinator, said social networks like Facebook provide positive and negative experiences.
She said on the positive side, social networks can provide support in times of need, but comments from the public can also be negative in ways that are inappropriate, inconsiderate, hurtful, condescending, or maligning.
“The city’s [Facebook page] sometimes receives more inappropriate comments than useful inquiries or questions, and the use of staff time to respond to these could be better served,” Boyd said.
“Staff have also identified that reviewing and responding to these inappropriate comments can be a hazard to mental health over time. The city has a legal obligation to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for both council and staff.”
Boyd said that although there hasn’t been a particular comment or series of comments that are causing specific concern, the tone of the public discourse has grown repeatedly negative for many municipalities.
She said that currently, comments on the city’s Facebook page can be made at any time of day, but staff only check it during office hours.
“There have been several occasions when an inappropriate comment made after hours has been noticed by other staff members who follow the city’s Facebook page, which resulted in after-hours work logging onto Facebook to remove or respond,” Boyd said.
Boyd said staff recommends that the city’s Facebook page continue to be used as an informational portal, where citizens can receive information on job postings, events, traffic advisories, press releases, and other issues.
She suggested that if a citizen has an issue, complaint, or concern to report, they could use the “Issue Reporting” button on the city’s website at www.duncan.ca. and the issue can be tracked and responded to accordingly by the appropriate staff member.
Citizens can also call city hall directly at 250-746-6126, or write to council at City of Duncan, 200 Craig Street, Duncan, B.C., V9L 1W3.
Coun. Tom Duncan said he’s seen other Facebook groups where when a comment is submitted, an administrator has to approve it before it gets posted online.
“But that would result in having to check [the website] more and more so I’m in favour of [turning off commenting],” he said.
“We’re using our Facebook page to provide information and there’s certainly other ways people can get hold of us other than Facebook.”
Mayor Michelle Staples said she has seen other communities who manage their social media sites very well.
But she said they have a dedicated staff to do that and suggested that the City of Duncan can revisit the issue if enough staff become available to take on the responsibility.
“Right now, I think it puts too much on staff to have to be available and it’s not an efficient use of people’s time and energy,” Staples said.