Banbury councillors on both sides of the political divide are united in the fight against online abuse and hope others will follow their lead.
Banbury Town Council was unanimous in supporting a motion condemning social media ‘trolls’ and setting out a number of ways members can do something about it.
Council leader Kieron Mallon (Con) proposed the motion and Labour Group leader Steve Kilsby seconded it as a show of cross-party support.
Cllr Mallon said: “In writing this motion I hope local politicians can set an example. When Steve and I started in politics, people had robust views and if you disagreed, you then debated your point of view.
“All that has changed as people who stand for public office are denigrated from a blog, or on Facebook or Twitter.
“So it falls on councillors and the organisations they represent to have a moral duty to stand against those who use social media to denigrate others who are just trying to do their best. With leadership comes responsibility and passion should be met by compassion.”
Cllr Kilsby said he was happy to back his counterpart’s motion as anonymous accounts attacking politicians were unacceptable.
“From the Labour side, we totally support the words in the motion and the idea of not allowing trolls who are mainly unaccountable, which I’m most concerned about,” he said.
“Anyone who makes a reasoned, sensible comment about a politician isn’t the issue, if it’s abusive, it’s a different matter.”
The motion says councillors pledge to not misuse social media, to seek out and stop personal attacks by their own political parties and its representatives, as well as showing respect to the people they represent and to their elected colleagues.
Cllr Mallon said he plans to propose the motion at Cherwell District Council and Oxfordshire County Council and hopes it spreads even further with Banbury setting the bar.
“Lets hope a little place like Banbury can set an example that the rest of the country can follow,” he said.
North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis has been outspoken against online abuse after suffering first-hand experience of trolls. The general election in June ‘brought out the best and worst in people’, according the Conservative MP, and she had to disable comments on her Facebook page because of the amount of abuse.
“Of course, everyone should have the opportunity to express their views but there is absolutely no place in our democracy for the abuse we have seen over recent months,” she said in September.