One source of community conflict can be about how social media is used. If a community does not have a social media policy (for staff, volunteers, members, and leaders of the community), then when differences of opinion arise, it can be difficult to resolve the conflict.
Below is a sample social media policy relevant for congregational humanism. Your community leadership will want to adapt this. Participation from the members of the community in the adaptation process may forestall later conflicts. Consensus as a goal and value is helpful, if it is required of all ideas and modifications proposed — including consensus on any objections. Usually, in free-thinking communities, unanimity is difficult, so unless there is consensus not to have a policy, approval by a majority vote is probably necessary once there has been an opportunity to consider any objections and suggestions.
Sample Policy (DRAFT)
Social Media Policy – [Community Name]
Effective Date: [Date]
Purpose: The purpose of this Social Media Policy is to provide guidelines and best practices for the responsible and ethical use of social media platforms by members, volunteers, staff, and leaders associated with [Community Name]. By adhering to this policy, we aim to foster a positive online presence that reflects our core values and mission. (By “leader” we mean anyone in the community with a leadership position, including officers, board members, and task force or committee members.)
1. General Guidelines:
1.1 Respect: Always treat people, including those online, with kindness, respect, and care, even when discussing differing opinions or beliefs. [Reference any more general agreement about interactions in the community that your community may have adopted.]
1.2 Transparency: Clearly identify yourself as a representative of [Community Name] when discussing community-related matters on any social media.
1.3 Privacy: Respect the privacy of individuals by not sharing personal information, sensitive data, or private conversations without their consent. If an adult asks you to remove personal information about them or about a minor in their care, do so.
1.4 Confidentiality: Do not share confidential information about the community, its members, or its activities on social media platforms, including finances, staffing issues, and future plans. If you’re not sure if it’s confidential, ask a staff person or leader who is able to clarify.
1.5 Crisis: Refrain from making any announcements or statements on any social media or in interviews, including to media, in crisis situations, unless pre-authorized by the [Senior Minister, Senior Leader, president]. That person will likely consult with others in making their decisions when time permits. This is crucial to be sure the community is not sharing conflicting stories or stories that will make navigating the crisis more difficult for the community. [Name a single role, not a person by name — ministers and Ethical Culture Leaders usually have some training in this.]
1.6 Media Contacts: Refer all media contacts to the one or more persons in your community authorized to be in touch with the media. (In crisis, refer all contact to the crisis point person established by your community.)
1.7 Accounts: Don’t use a community email address you may have for social media accounts. Don’t use fake names on any accounts if the social media platform does not allow fake names.
1.8 Personal vs. Official: Include a statement on social media accounts that you do not speak for the community unless you clearly identify yourself as a representative of the community (1.2). While these guidelines are still helpful to guide your individual postings, you are not required to adhere to them when you are not using an official account or speaking of the community (1.2).
1.9 Security: Share any passwords only with those officially authorized to use the specific account. Only authorize trustworthy people to manage any accounts, including the community’s website and social media accounts. Authorize at least two unrelated people to manage any social media account, in case one person becomes unavailable. Archive safely one copy of any account-related passwords. If a person leaves the staff or volunteer position authorized to use the social media account, immediately remove their access to such accounts, after authorizing someone else in their place, even temporarily. If a social media account or website is not being used, consider de-activating it so that it is less likely to be taken over by someone not authorized to use it. Change account passwords periodically, and always when deauthorizing any user. If someone who is not authorized seizes control of any account, quickly attempt to regain control through whatever means the platform provider has available.
1.10 Stay Informed: Stay updated with the latest trends and guidelines related to social media use and security.
2. Content Creation:
2.1 Accuracy: Verify the accuracy of the information you share before posting and correct any errors promptly.
2.2 Originality: Always give credit to sources when sharing content that is not your own and be sure you have permission to use the information. Avoid plagiarism and copyright infringement. This includes images. If something on the internet is not explicitly marked as public domain, and it was first published after a certain date determined by copyright law, it is likely under copyright protection.
2.3 Relevance: Ensure that posts on the community’s accounts or shared as a representative of the community align with the community’s purpose, mission, and values.
2.4 Respect Diversity: Be sensitive to the diverse identities and beliefs in our community and our online audience. As a representative of a community which aspires to be inclusive and diverse, also consider equity and justice in communications.
2.5 Think Before You Post: If you are in doubt about a post’s relevance or appropriateness after considering the general guidelines, check with someone else before posting.
3. Respectful Communication:
When engaging on a community account or as a community representative:
3.1 Handle Conflict With Care: Differences of opinion and perspective, and even values, are inevitable online. Handle disagreements with respect, in accord with our community’s values, and with an openness to repair and reconciliation.
3.2 Language: Use respectful language in communications.
3.3 Graceful Disagreement: If you disagree with someone’s views, express your viewpoint or interpretation as your own, and do so respectfully. Express it as a community position only if you have the authority to do so. Avoid personal attacks.
3.4 Irrelevant Posts and Spam: Posts or comments that are irrelevant to the topic and unsolicited are not accepted. This includes posts and comments that are commercial advertising, proselytizing, soliciting friend requests (likely phishing attempts), posts from bot or otherwise fake accounts, or simply repeats of the same message posted many times on the community’s and other accounts.
4. Use of Community Branding:
4.1 Consistency: When representing [Community Name], use official logos, banners, and branding guidelines to maintain consistency.
4.2 Permission: Obtain explicit, written permission from community leadership before creating or using any social media accounts on behalf of the community.
5. Protection of Minors:
5.1 Safe Environment: Do not post photos or information, including names, about minors without the consent of their parents or guardians.
5.2 Reporting Concerns: Report any suspicious or inappropriate online activity involving minors to community leadership immediately.
6. Reporting Violations:
6.1 Internal Reporting: If you witness a violation of this policy or encounter inappropriate content on the community’s social media platforms, report it to community leadership.
6.2 External Reporting: Report any harassment, threats, impersonation, or illegal activities to the respective social media platform and law enforcement, if necessary.
7. Consequences of Policy Violations:
7.1 Non-Compliance: Violations of this policy may result in disciplinary actions, including the removal of posts or posting privileges, blocking access, or further actions deemed appropriate by community leadership.
When a post or comment on a community account, even by someone who is not a part of the community, is determined to be in violation of these policies, this can be harmful to the community’s reputation. A person responsible for the community account may, at their discretion:
- Respond respectfully though firmly.
- Hide the post or comment (so it will be visible only to that person and their friends).
- Delete the post or comment (it can be seen by nobody and is not retrievable).
- Block and/or report the person posting, especially if the violation is egregious or repeated.
Consultation with others in community leadership or on staff before taking action is recommended.
8. Amendment and Review:
8.1 Policy Updates: This policy may be updated or modified as needed. It is the responsibility of all members, volunteers, staff, and leaders to stay informed about the current policy.
By using [Community Name]’s social media platforms, you acknowledge your understanding and acceptance of this Social Media Policy. We encourage you to represent our community’s values with love, respect, and responsibility in all online interactions.
[Community Name] [Community Meeting/Mailing Address] [Contact Information] [Date of Last Review]
If you publish your adaptation as a policy, please include a link to this sample so that others may use it as a starting point.
Sample Community Social Media Policy © 2023 by Jone Johnson Lewis is licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International