Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Councils unite against online bullying

Councils from across the country have united to take a stand against online bullying through a confronting video released for Pink Shirt Day.

In the 2-minute clip, staff from 17 councils across New Zealand take turns to read some of abusive messages they receive.

The video follows the success of Hamilton City Council’s Pink Shirt Day video last year, which saw the Council’s Communication and Engagement team reading just a few harmful messages. It remains Council’s most-viewed video with more than 6,000 views to date.

The outpouring of support received from the community and other local governments last year compelled Council to issue a nationwide call out, Hamilton City Council Chief Executive, Richard Briggs said.

“It was confronting and powerful. And this year’s is even harder to watch. But we know that to create real change we need to be bold and continue to take a stand. Thank you to each council who chose to stand with us,” he said.

The video is a reminder that – as with all social media accounts – there are real people behind council channels, Mr Briggs said.

“Some of the messages staff receive are horrific – we’ve had staff in tears and these comments truly can ruin days. Every council probably experiences this and today has been a chance for us to join forces and unite against this new and scary form of bullying.”

Councils receive thousands of comments and messages through Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram every month – and many are positive. But the growing digital channels have also led to a sharp rise in abusive messages.

And when it comes to contentious issues, it’s often staff taking the brunt of people’s anger.

Since last year’s video, Hamilton City Council has made changes to its social media policy, taking a harder stance on inappropriate comments. It’s also become more proactive with hiding comments and messages that break terms and conditions.

“While we want our pages to be a space that encourages conversation, there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed. There’s always someone reading those messages and no one should ever have to put up with that kind of abuse. Today, we ask people to think before they type,” Mr Briggs said.

Pink Shirt Day is a national occasion for the people of Aotearoa to come together and take action against bullying. It’s a day to unite, spread kindness, and celebrate differences.

You can watch the video here.

To find out more about standing together against bullying, check out the Pink Shirt Day website here.

If you need help or support, please reach out to the organisations below:

  • Need to talk? Free call or text 1737any time for support from a trained counsellor.
  • Lifeline– 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP).
  • Healthline– 0800 611 116
  • Samaritans – 0800 726 666

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