Earlier this week on my facebook page I posted my thoughts on the use of social media blocking by elected officials. The post has generated a fair bit of discussion that is encouraging as many people have taken the time to express differing points of view. From my perspective when there is a large amount of interest on an issue it is one that citizens see as important.
On the surface an elected official blocking someone through social media may not seem like a significant event. However for the growing population who do use social media, blocking is a way of denying a person their voice to be heard. By extension as social media increasingly has become a tool for citizens to hold elected officials to account, the careless use of the block button by elected officials has become an easy way out instead of answering a difficult or unpopular question.
In some cases I have even learned of a practice called “pre-emptive blocking” where groups of citizens may be blocked by an elected official they have never interacted with online. This type of “guilt by association” we would never tolerate off line yet it has become an online practice by some elected officials and their senior staff.
To be clear I will continue to defend the right of elected officials to practice whatever social media policies they feel most comfortable with. Likewise for those who use social media for personal attacks, profanity and threats it is expected that such behaviours will not be tolerated. At the same I will also caution those who use the block button as a means to avoid accountability or debate. Social media ideally works both ways and citizens deserve the right to be heard.
On that note I am suggesting that elected officials, and those media and pundits who cover political circles to consider a social media forgiveness campaign. How about un-block (or un-mute) all of those citizens you have blocked over time and give people a second chance to engage. This may not work in all situations however elected officials being exposed to more diverse views and being held to account in my view helps build a stronger democracy.
I welcome your comments, questions and concerns and can be reached online at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call me
off-line toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.