Are Politicians Responsible For Their Followers’ Offensive Facebook Comments?

facebook_logo_flatAs election season heats up, many passionate political followers take to Facebook and other social media to vent their frustrations. However, what responsibility do the politicians themselves hold if the comments of their followers cross the line?

A conservative Colorado State Representative posted an article on his Facebook page this month about the state’s speaker of the house “blasting” anti-abortion legislators. In response to his post, one Facebook user wrote: “Just think where we would be now if [the Speaker’s] mother had chosen the Speaker’s solution.” It’s unclear if the State Representative is aware of the comment, and according to experts, that’s important information to know before drawing any conclusions.

“When you look at the sheer volume of what people put on Facebook, it’s unrealistic to expect staff or candidates to keep up with it,” said professor and media expert Justin Vaughn. “They might be getting thousands of comments. Unless we know there’s active support, we should be cautious about inferring that inaction means tacit support… If the campaign is made aware of an offensive comment and refuses to take action, that’s another story.”

Of course, it’s unfair to hold politicians responsible for someone else’s offensive Facebook comments. It’s not necessarily a good thing to expect them to police their followers, either. However, it’s interesting that these problems of censorship are the exact same ones that Facebook deals with on a larger scale.