Debate over Wigan council's new anti-bullying policy

A social media debate was sparked among Wiganers after council chiefs published a charter aimed at cracking down on online abuse.
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The charter was introduced last week by Wigan Council as part of a campaign to combat online bullying and abuse aimed at its staff.

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The guidelines for followers of the council’s social media channels prohibit insulting or inciting posts, hate crime and swearing.

But the news generated both support and criticism towards the local authority, with some welcoming the move while others accused officials of shying away from criticism.

In response, town hall chiefs took the unprecedented step of revealing some of the abuse its workers were subjected to on a daily basis.

Posting on Facebook, the council wrote: “We have a duty to protect our staff which is why we reserve the right to ban those who use social media to abuse and threaten others.”

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Screenshots included alongside the post showcased a range of comments from a range of social media pages, which are aimed at the council but not run by anyone at the town hall.

They contained a range of offensive material, including a series of insults at council officers.

One social media user even made physical threats towards staff.

However, council staff took to social media to personally respond to many of the comments, individually outlining the authority’s stance and why they have introduced the policy.

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There was a mixed reaction the council’s decision to highlight the abuse.

One user wrote: “I’ve personally witnessed the language used towards Wigan Council, even when the posts are about incredibly positive subjects, and I see it every day in my current job. Even if we don’t all get along, just be civil and work towards solutions.”

One Facebook user commented: “No individual should be subjected to direct abuse.

“There is no excuse. But occasionally the council, as an organisation needs to be ridiculed, but it can be done without abuse.”

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However, some residents were less sympathetic, saying the council should just “ignore” the abuse.

The debate about online attacks came in the wake of new findings which revealed that 279 council employees were physically attacked over a two year period - the majority of which were school staff.