Councillors’ social media etiquette code

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Wigan councillors have been warned about blurring the lines between the personal and professional when using social media.

The guidance is part of a new town hall policy to encourage elected members to engage with residents but “be thoughtful” about their online presence.

There is also a strict warning about posting confidential details gleaned from their roles within the council’s inner workings, a policy document reveals. Councillors will be asked to approve the policy - which also references journalists’ “exploiting” social media posts - at next week’s standards committee.

The document reads: “This policy is not intended to deter elected members from enjoying social media. However, with the many benefits there are also potential risks that cannot be ignored and the policy has been developed with the aim of protecting elected members and the council.”

Council enforcers have in recent years dealt with several high profile conduct breaches caused by social media or Internet posts. Members have been reprimanded for posting alleged libellous content on online message boards and, one occasion, doctoring e-mails to misrepresent the views of a council officer.

And once a former councillor was escorted from the chamber by police for ignoring a mayoral request not to tweet during a meeting.

The document adds: “Elected members should understand that their online activities could have legal implications and that they can be individually liable for any defamatory or untrue statement that they make on social networking sites. For example, information obtained during the course of their council duties, and which is not in the public domain, should not be disclosed.”