Up-to-date social media advice for councillors warns them to be alert to fake news and “bots”.
Social media protocols were last agreed in 2017, a long time in the ever-changing online world.
The new protocol takes out outdated terms and also includes guidelines for WhatsApp.
A draft of the new guidance is going before the Audit and Standards Committee which meets at Portslade Town Hall on Tuesday 23 July.
It states the guidance will help councillors “avoid legal and reputational risks inherent in the use of social media”.
The guideline say: “The key message is that your online activity is subject to the Members’ Code of Conduct whenever you are – or appear to be – acting in your capacity as a councillor or otherwise representing the council, this rather than acting as a private individual.”
Councillors are warned to be aware of fake news and the potential for hacking into “sensitive party accounts”.
It also warns of automated “bot” accounts, which can be used to spread fake news.
The guidance also includes a basic guide to legal issues including libel and copyright.
Councillors are advised: “Putting ‘these views are my own’ as a disclaimer on your social media profile will not offer you any legal protection.
The protocol said: “It will not prevent you from legal action or from complaints that you have breached the Code of Conduct for Members, nor from it preventing the reputation of the council from being damaged.”
Under the code of conduct councillors are advised to treat others with respect and refrain from making personal attacks or indulging in rude, disrespectful or offensive comments.
They should comply with equality legislation, not bully or intimidate anyone, not bring the council into disrepute, respect the impartiality of officers and not disclose confidential or exempt information.
Using phones during meetings discreetly is also advised so the public does not think they are used for personal use.
The authority is required under the Localism Act to make sure councillors keep up high standards of conduct on social media.
It also deals with any complaints from the public about a councillors behaviour and comments on social media platforms.
Ahead of the 2019 election campaign Conservative candidate Ivor Lyons stepped down due to jokes shared on Facebook.
Former Labour candidate Alex Braithwaite was suspended from the party for posts on her Twitter account after the deadline for withdrawing nominations.
The Audit and Standards Committee meets in public from 2pm at Portslade Town Hall on Tuesday 23 July.
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