After receiving the following email from a constituent – which I publish by permission – I decided to take new steps to detoxify comment on my social media:

I am writing to you after having spoken to [XXX] about how horrified and upset I get when I go to your FB account.

I love seeing the posts and photos of the various places you go in my town and the local organisations you visit and then promote.  What I hate though, and what distresses me to the point of tears sometimes, is how toxic comments seem to be allowed to spoil literally every single post you put up.

I get the live and live mindset and free speech and all that but why are us locals, us people who are interested and who care, why are we subjected to the poison that is spewed out in the comments.  I genuinely don’t understand why they’re not deleted.  I go on to write something nice or to encourage you or the people you’ve visiting and I come away feeling angry and soiled. 

The only way I can stop this is by not visiting your page, to not be interested in what you do any more, and I think that is a bloody shame Steve.  I checked out Rob Butler’s page to see if he suffers the same abuse as you – as I know that is what it is – and he’s got the comments switched off.  It’s a pleasure to visit his page and to be able to see what he’s been doing and to simply ‘like’ it.

I get that your FB account is your FB account but I literally can’t go another day without telling you how destructive it is to me and to probably lots of us and all smiles and interest in where you’ve been or the companies you visit, or the voluntary groups you promote, like today’s about the Repair Cafe, is instantly wiped out as we scroll down to put a comment ourselves and catch sight of the repulsive, mocking, frankly demonic activity that is left on your account.

I really hope you consider all of us and switch off commenting.  I’ve commented on the cake post this evening and said how awful it is so read the horrid comments on a post about my lovely town and some of its volunteers.  If you were to ever come out with [XXX] again, I wouldn’t want you to write a post because of the abuse that would get put in the comments just to trash you.  Please stop it from happening.

I hope you hear my heart in all this.

Constituent email, published by permission.

As a rule, I won’t turn off comments on social media but the bar for deleting or hiding comments and blocking or banning users is now very low. I am using to automate moderation and I will also, rarely, intervene manually. Comments will stay off on this site.

Local people are welcome to send email to me in Parliament. We prioritise vulnerable people in need over comment on policy. Commenting on social media is never the best way to contact me: I very rarely have the time to read comments and in any event, they are typically so toxic that I have long been unwilling to log in to Facebook.

Please note I am not proposing a new law. I am simply cleaning up what is hosted under my own social media. People are free to publish what they wish somewhere else. I am under no obligation to help my opponents, as open as I am to constructive discussion in good faith.

I’m sorry this is necessary. We are going to some effort to avoid switching off comments completely. Hopefully civil disagreement in a spirit of mutual good faith may return.

Learn more about Arwen:

See also: Why I am Removing Trolls from my Social Media

Comments are closed.