Social media and inappropriate content: Delete and move on.

Keith McDonald raises an excellent point in a comment on the previous post.

“We are having a real fear on missing an offensive post on a wall for example….Hypotheticaly someone could post something that stays up for a while that we simply miss because we didn’t check it out fast enough or our one FB resource is away that day.”

Government agencies thinking about engaging social media–and agencies not considering it now are running out of time–must acknowledge that a nontrivial amount of content on the Big Network is offensive, obscene, pornographic, gruesome, racist and so on ad nauseum. This is a reality of the mediaverse beyond the control of government. It’s like weather.

It’s important to be up-front about this. On my first day at KDOT I addressed the issue in a meeting with the agency’s Executive Staff. The possibility of inappropriate content appearing on K-TOC was a real concern. I asked everyone present to recall the worst example they’d ever seen of offensive material posted in a public forum, be it pornographic images hacked onto a government webpage or crazy racist rhetoric posted to a newspaper site or an incomprehensibly avant-garde 4chan manifesto that pops up when you’re trying to pay your water bill. We’ve all lived in the virtual world long enough to have seen or heard of extreme examples of this.

“Each of you is imagining some grotesque incident of inappropriate posting that caused consternation and public embarrassment to the host site,” I said. “I’m here today to tell you that every single one of those things will happen on K-TOC.”

It’s gonna happen. The “best practice” is to delete the material and move on. E-Staff thought it over and committed to the community anyway. That took real courage.

We’ve been fortunate at K-TOC, because Leverage (who host the community) run a tight ship, but we’ve seen inappropriate material pop up on the agency Twitter account. It doesn’t stay there long, because I delete it as soon as I see it, and I check multiple times every day. Keith is correct: Unattended social media sites are train wrecks waiting to happen. These media require sustained attention–be prepared to commit the necessary resources. And be prepared for the crappy day when a too-smart 16-year-old covers your site with pictures of Avril Lavigne. When it arrives, don’t fall into the screaming fantods. This is the world in which we live. Remain calm. Clean up the page. The sun will come up tomorrow. Delete and move on.

Far more challenging than outright obscenity is simple offensiveness, which often is protected speech. There is considerable hurly-burly in the public discourse these days. Sometimes it’s unattractive, but don’t let it provoke you into abridging anyone’s First Amendment rights. And for pete’s sake don’t be this guy.

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