Community Facebook pages criticised for lack of moderation

SURVIVOR: Blayney woman Lyn Davidson departing Sydney on the Ruby Princess. She later contracted COVID-19 on board. Photo: LYN DAVIDSON
SURVIVOR: Blayney woman Lyn Davidson departing Sydney on the Ruby Princess. She later contracted COVID-19 on board. Photo: LYN DAVIDSON

It goes without saying that social media has changed the ways that communities interact.

The ease with which we can contact others, share their joy and our own and also participate in special interest and community groups is invaluable.

Spread the Word / Whatever pages on Facebook are a case in point.

In Blayney we have three of them, Spread the Word in Blayney, Blayney - Spread the Word and Whatever - Blayney.

All three of them overwhelmingly provide a fantastic service in disseminating useful information about what's happening in the community, there's no doubting that.

For many it's the first port of call when looking for information.

From training times for the soccer, to internet outages, and from pub specials to the ubiquitous lost dogs, these pages provide a service that was once the domain of noticeboards and the classified section of this paper.

On the whole the sites are usually well moderated and misinformation is difficult to find.

I really feel for her and her family and I totally understand where she's coming from because I was very worried that I would get the same reaction.

Lyn Davidson

There are rare occasions though when fear, anger and outrage by an ignorant few spills out onto the pages causing unnecessary distress for individuals and families.

When news whipped around the town that there were three positive COVID-19 cases in Blayney, posts on the Spread the Word pages initially announced that cases had been identified. Nothing wrong there, again, it's what the pages are for.

Soon after though, amongst the positive messages of support for the family, came the accusations that the family had deliberately visited the supermarket and had carelessly brought the disease into the community.

Nothing could have been further from the truth, and yet those accusations were allowed to linger on some pages, causing untold stress to a family that loves the town and had chosen to move here.

In a passionate post on Spread the Word in Blayney the mother of the family involved rightfully attacked those who had drawn the conclusion that the family had irresponsibly doomed Blayney's inhabitants by their actions.

Clearly the lack of further infection in the community is proof that it isn't so.

And the family aren't alone when it comes to the barbed comments of keyboard warriors.

Former Blayney resident Lyn Davidson contracted COVID-19 on the Ruby Princess in 2020 and was one of the original infections in Australia. On her diagnosis of COVID-19 Ms Davidson has said that at the time she was worried about any repercussions that could come of it.

"At the time it was all very new and frightening. I had the disease that had killed so many people and it's a shock because of the emotions that go through you when you've unknowingly brought a disease like this into the community," she said.

"It's bad enough to have the disease and dealing with illness itself, without having to worry about what's going on in the community.

"I really feel for her and her family and I totally understand where she's coming from because I was very worried that I would get the same reaction.

"The pressure and the negativity from some in the community is why I chose to stay anonymous, however the overwhelming response was one of support and positivity."

In many ways some of the comments posted are slanderous and the administrators are wise to quickly moderate them to avoid being sued by those attacked.

A recent decision by the Supreme Court of New South Wales has determined that administrators of Facebook pages may be considered the 'publishers' of posts by others, and may therefore be liable for defamatory comments.

None of us want to see these pages go down that route, we all enjoy the jokes, the photos, the business news and specials. Besides, there's always a stray dog that's missing its owners.

The administrators of Spread the Word in Blayney did not respond to a request for a comment. The Blayney Chronicle isn't publishing the family's name out of respect for their privacy.

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