There are few absolutes in social media, but to me, one of them is that you absolutely shouldn’t delete comments simply because they criticize your agency. Doing so just shreds your credibility, denies you the chance to respond, and tells the world you’re not actually interested in hearing what the world thinks.
I agree, however, that you should have a commenting policy. Here’s ours: http://www.epa.gov/epahome/commentpolicy.html
There are really only a few things that’ll get your comment removed from EPA’s Facebook page or not allowed to appear on our blog:
- contain obscene, indecent, or profane language;
- contain threats or defamatory statements;
- contain hate speech directed at race, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, ethnicity, age, religion, or disability; or
- promote or endorse services or products. (Note that non-commercial links that are relevant to the topic or another comment are acceptable.)
I disagree with the blanket claims of first amendment rights. Our attys have taken the position that a gov’t social media page is more like a public hearing than a street corner. In hearings, we do have the authority and responsibility to keep things civil.
From time to time, people forget the policy, and we remind them. Every time I’ve ever posted the policy to our Facebook page, we get large numbers of “likes” and positive comments. And when people complain about the policy, others say that they appreciate that we have it.