The Great Falls Police Department does a pretty good job using its Facebook page to keep the community informed, and for the most part, people who leave comments on the page are civil, polite, and encouraging – as they should be.
However – “most” does not mean “all,” unfortunately, The GFPD recently had to issue a clear reminder about commenting guidelines.
Apparently we need to remind several members of our community that there are rules for posts and comments on our page. This morning we came in to find that last night, in reply to a post requesting the community’s help identifying three people, several followers decided it was a good idea to violate every single one of these rules:
⚠️ Comments containing profanity, obscene, defamatory, threatening, or lewd language
⚠️ Comment is off-subject or out of context
⚠️ Comment contains obscene, lewd, offensive, profane, or sexually explicit content
⚠️ Comment contains confidential or sensitive personal information
⚠️ Comment contains threatening, harassing, hateful or discriminatory language
⚠️ Comment incites violence or illegal activities
⚠️ Comment contains information that reasonably could compromise individual or public safety
Quite frankly we are embarrassed by the behavior of the most prolific offenders; several have now been banned from our page, and the posts have been deleted.
Kudos to the GFPD! Sadly, the comments section of many Facebook pages/posts – particularly those involving current events, news, and crime – have turned into a virtual cesspool of ignorance, hatred, foul language, name-calling, and worse.
To be honest, that is one of the primary reasons that I left my job last month at KRTV after more than 10 years. While I was absolutely grateful that KRTV attracted nearly 80,000 “likes” since I created it in 2008 and I truly loved the positive aspects of the community engagement, the tone and civility of many comments over those years grew increasingly toxic, and as I’m sure just about any “social media manager” can attest, the toxicity, ignorance, and hatred can take a mental toll.
I tried to keep things civil by removing (or hiding) the most extreme comments – the ones calling for a thief’s throat to be slit (looking at you, Merry), or demanding that a person’s testicles be cut off and shoved down his throat, threatening to shoot or kill someone who was charged with embezzlement, racist comments and/or name-calling of people (“Fucking Indian trash!” and “Stupid faggot!” type of stuff) and of course the endless comments about someone’s appearance (“What an ugly bitch!”, etc). (And don’t get me started on the people who leave ignorant comments without actually reading the article…or people who go waaaaay off-topic…)
Yes, I understand that some people have “revenge fantasies” regarding what they would like to do with criminals – but a news outlet’s or police department’s Facebook page is not the place to wave such fantasies high in the air with some sick sense of “pride” in being able to imagine the many ways to kill a person. Those comments belong on a person’s personal Facebook page, or even better – while sitting in front of the TV with a spouse or friends – not in an online forum that is owned/managed by a news outlet – and not on a municipal agency’s Facebook page such as the Great Falls Police Department.
Am I unreasonable in this? Perhaps. But I know that there are a LOT of people who are sickened by the ever-increasing toxic environment on Facebook. The problem is that too many Facebook page managers are afraid of doing anything about it – terrified of being called out for “censorship,” or worried that their “engagement” metrics for likes/comments/shares might drop if they try to enforce standards of decency and civility.
So: kudos to the GFPD for having standards, communicating them to their audience, and enforcing them. I wish others would do the same.