EDITORIAL: who is minding the posts?

Social media sites don't seem to follow the same rules as printed media when it comes to potentially defamatory comments

More than a few times a day we head to our Facebook page where we can see, and moderate to a degree, what’s been said about our stories through comments on our website.

To be honest, it’s done defensively, almost with fear.

We are not afraid of any criticism of our stories — that comes with the territory. What makes us tremble is the possibility there will be a comment that’s libellous, in the pure legal sense of the word or hedging toward such an outcome. Or in poor taste. Or a personal attack. Or a comment filled with foul language. We have seen all of the above.

Often, we get ideas from the non-troubling comments, ways to advance or follow up on a story that we did not consider or did not have time to pursue. For that we are thankful.

But it’s the dark side we fear. There have been successful lawsuits against people who have posted libellous comments on Facebook and other social media sites, but that doesn’t seem to stop anyone.

The problem is the lack of filters. Both personally (individual people who comment) and with so-called moderators.

Those who call themselves moderators usually lack any professional experience regarding libel. Or at least it looks that way. They tend to lean toward the free-speech, anything-goes model of public discussion.

That’s all well and good in theory, but what about real life? A store that one complains about might knee-jerk react to an inflammatory comment about its operations and put someone who supports a family out of a job. A person attacked may be struggling with mental health challenges and be pushed over the edge by mean-spirited comments.

Everything we publish goes through multiple sets of eyes before it hits the paper. Many of these eyeballs have decades of experience looking for the legal land mines of defamation. We also have an experienced media lawyer ready to take our call, and provide advice, at a moment’s notice. By no means is this absolutely foolproof or an exact science, but how many so-called moderators have those checks and balances?

Reports on the death of newspapers have been greatly exaggerated. We can’t speak about other markets, but the residents and businesses of Parksville Qualicum Beach continue to support this traditional form of media. We are humbled and grateful for that. As self-serving as this seems, we also believe that support keeps alive a more responsible, professional forum for public discourse.

— Editorial by John Harding

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

PQBeat: Qualicum Beach musician, lawyer Phil Dwyer

Juno Award winner talks music legends, ‘The Ballad of Bonnie Henry’ and more

Parksville athlete sprints her way to the University of B.C.

Desvaux looks forward to joining T-Birds track and field team

COVID-19: Tourism Vancouver Island aims to help businesses survive

Revenue loss associated with a slow summer will be a big hit

VIDEO: Injured bald eagle rescued in B.C. First Nations community

Bird suspected injured in fight, whisked off to Coquitlam rehab

COVID-19: Parksville-Qualicum MLA Stilwell calls for more help for tourism industry

‘It’s no question been one of the hardest-hit sectors in this pandemic’

Man dies in ATV accident south of Nanaimo

Incident happened on backroad Friday night in Nanaimo Lakes area

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Toronto Raptors’ Ujiri says conversations about racism can no longer be avoided

Thousands have protested Floyd’s death and repeated police killings of black men across the United States

‘I’m afraid’: Witnesses of wolf attack on senior near Prince Rupert worried about safety

Frank Russ shows where the unprovoked wolf attacked his father

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Most Read