Sat | Mar 23, 2019

Difficult to manage! - Political parties say mud-slinging on social media hard to curtail

Published:Saturday | January 5, 2019 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell/ News Coordinator
Chang
Robinson
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General secretaries of both the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People's National Party (PNP) have acknowledged

that rancorous comments on social media about political opponents is problematic but argue that the issue is difficult to manage.

Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment-Brown has cautioned politicians and their supporters against posting material on social media that incites violence and is in breach of the Political Code of Conduct.

Last night, Dr Horace Chang, the JLP general secretary, told The Gleaner that he was aware of some of the caustic exchanges on social media but noted that the platform had "created fake news, and that is the nature of the world today".

"In time, we will get some kind of control, but there is not much that we can do about it," said Chang, adding that it was difficult to exercise control over what pervades social media.

 

Viral posts

 

Chang said that if offensive material that was in breach of ethical principles was posted on a social media site connected to the JLP, the information would be deleted. However, he noted that if the comment went viral, it would pose a challenge.

"Certainly, if you get something very obscene and vitriolic that is in breach of decency, you delete it."

The JLP general secretary said that the party would urge its members not to post indecent material on any social media sites.

He argued, however, that the society would have to learn to live with social media until an appropriate way was found to filter the information without censoring free speech.

Julian Robinson, the PNP's general secretary, said that he was aware of at least one matter involving a member from the PNP that the political ombudsman was dealing with at this time.

"It is a challenge. Generally, I would say that the comments tend to be more from surrogates rather than the individual politicians themselves."

Conceding that some of the comments were unacceptable, Robinson noted that "people say a lot of very derogatory things about individuals, almost in an assumption that there is no recourse".

He asserted that many believed that the same rules that applied for defamation in 'normal life' did not apply on social media.

"We urge our own members to be careful and conscious about the things that they put out there. The laws of defamation still apply whether you are on social media or not."

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com