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

Just Posted

Parksville Beach Festival Society launches campaign for outdoor stage

Public invited to event May 25 to help with kickoff

Crime Report: Oceanside RCMP receive 328 complaints in one-week span

Vandalism and theft of a wheelchair among listed incidents

Controversial cell tower proposal in Coombs clears another hurdle

Committee indicates Rogers satisfactorily completed requirements

Parksville advocate to discuss harm-reduction measures for addicts

Morris, along with a panel of professionals, will be at the PCC on May 21

QUIZ: Test your knowledge of Victoria Day

How much do you know about the monarch whose day we celebrate each May?

Take-home drug testing kits latest pilot to help curb B.C.’s overdose crisis

Researchers look to see if fentanyl testing could be a useful tool for those who use drugs alone

B.C. ferry stops to let black bear swim past near Nanaimo

Queen of Oak Bay brakes for wildlife in Nanaimo’s Departure Bay

RCMP arrest violent offender on Vancouver Island

Campbell River police struggle with suspect and take him down with a taser

Facebook takes down anti-vaxxer page that used image of late Canadian girl

Facebook said that the social media company has disabled the anti-vaccination page

Search crews rescue kids, 6 and 7, stranded overnight on Coquitlam mountain

Father and two youngsters fall down a steep, treacherous cliff while hiking Burke Mountain

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

Two cats die in house fire in Nanaimo

Fire happened just after 2 p.m. Sunday on Fifth Street, one resident displaced

RDN looking into providing bus service 365 days a year

RDN transit committee to consider adding bus service on Christmas, New Year’s and Good Friday

Most Read