Think before you Facebook

by Stephen Tall on January 23, 2009

The St Helens Reporter brings us news of an embarrassment for a Lib Dem councillor, following online comments he made via Facebook, remarking that it was a “great shame” that two recently deceased Labour councillors did not represent Lib Dem target wards:

During the January 11 posting, [Councillor David Crowther] wrote: “It might be three before long – at least one other is rumoured to be seriously ill – great shame their (sic) not our target seats, but at least it will give us the chance to see how strong they are and it will seriously distract them for a few months.” …

[he has] issued a statement offering a partial apology. He said: “It is unfortunate that a private communication has been made public, but I agree the remarks are insensitive and on reflection that is not the kind of thing that should have been put on Facebook. I apologise for any distress that may have been caused.”

It’s unclear from the article if Cllr Crowther’s remarks were posted in a semi-public forum on Facebook (ie, visible to all friends), or if this was genuinely private one-to-one correspondence that has somehow been leaked. It makes a difference.

To the family and friends of the deceased councillors the remarks will appear highly tasteless. But intent is everything, and they were never intended to see them. The reality is that conversations such as these happen among activists of all parties; but most would be mortified if they were over-heard.

Indeed, all professions have their fair share of ‘black humour’ which to an outsider would seem grotesque, but where there’s no malicious intent. The offence occurs only when they become public. And when it does there is no alternative but a whole-hearted apology.