Elbert County updating policy on social media

Commenting to be turned off under proposal to avoid misinformation, business promotions

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The Elbert County commissioners met on June 6 to discuss updates to the county’s social media policy, which is to be adopted on July 13. While county representatives are in favor of the new policy that plans to turn off commenting on social media posts, many community members are concerned that it could reduce communication between citizens and representatives.
 
According to the agenda packet for the June 6 meeting, the purpose of the policy is to give guidance for the use of social media to provide timely, important information to the public. It is not the intent of the county to provide a platform for debate, conflict, personal opinions, misinformation, offers of professional services or other off-topic discussions.
 
The new policy will apply to all county departments, offices, employees, volunteers, and county-operated social media accounts.
 
“It’s always tough to find the right level of communication to reach citizens. Our goal is to use social media platforms to push out information,” said Elbert County Manager Sam Albrecht. “What we’re seeing, though, is a lot of off-topic, unfocused dialogue. We’re seeing information that is incorrect and antagonistic. We’re seeing comments that are promoting personal agendas.”
 
Albrecht said there have been several instances when citizens have given incorrect or inappropriate information on official social media pages during emergency situations.
 
“A few recent examples are from when we’ve had to deal with emergency situations,” sad Albrecht. “Some people have posted incorrect information or used emergency situations to promote their businesses, like roof inspections and repairs.”
 
Several members of the community, however, are concerned that this new policy will stifle communication between county leaders and their constituents. Others argue that limiting communication is denying citizens freedom of speech.
 
The most frequent citizen complaint is that meetings with the Board of County Commissioners are not held at convenient times for the public to attend, leading to the need for public comment and discussion on social media.
 
“Meetings are not held at convenient times for working folks,” one commenter noted on a community Facebook page, where another wrote, “I always see them being held in the middle of the day when everyone is working.”
 
Other comments referred to “uncontested propaganda,” communism and squelching free speech.
 
The official policy is broken into five points:
 
a. Social media will be used to push important information and notifications to the citizens of Elbert County.
 
b. Official county social media accounts will not be created or owned by individuals and will be created and administered as organizational accounts.
 
c. Commenting on social media posts will be turned off. However, sharing of posts will be enabled where possible.
 
d. Social media posts will include a line for those seeking more information and may include the PIO (public information officer’s) email, phone number, and/or a website link for more information.
 
e. Social media polls or surveys may be used to receive feedback for the development of plans and policy changes.
 
f. The PIO will have access to all official county government social media accounts
 
Elbert County, social media, comments, Facebook, Colorado

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