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This is a draft post for the site’s News page – please review before it goes live. Thanks. DavidH.

Unwarranted ‘flagging’ used to silence Easton Voice on social media.

It has become apparent that, among those who oppose the Easton Voice group, there is an anti-democratic element who are misusing social media ‘flagging’ tools to silence us.

As you are probably aware, social media platforms such as Facebook have recently been facing criticism for not taking swift action against hate speech and discrimination posted by users. Their first-line defence to combat this is to give their users the opportunity to ‘flag’ offensive content, with the effect that anyone so flagged will have their account suspended – silenced – pending review by moderators. Once you are flagged you must wait for a period – which may be several days – before any appeal is heard. You must also go to the trouble of defending yourself in such an appeal.

This feature is all very well – and sadly all too necessary with the levels of extremism found in the arena of social media – but, as our recent experience demonstrates, it is also wide open for misuse.

There are those involved in this debate who disagree with the actions Easton Voice have been taking to raise awareness of the many and complex issues that have a bearing on the Easton Safer Streets project, issues that we feel have been unduly overlooked and disregarded. Amongst those who disagree with us it would seem that some have taken to flagging accounts or comments expressing views that they wish to silence.

The first time this happened was in the comments section of the Bristol 24/7 news site, below an article by one of our fiercest critics, Rob Telford of the Easton Green Party. A polite and very eloquently expressed response to this article, challenging some of Mr Telford’s arguments, was posted in the comments section by an Easton resident; and this was posted by someone who wasn’t even involved with the Easton Voice group. Within 24 hours this entirely reasonable comment, a contribution to reasoned debate on the subject, had been flagged as ‘inappropriate’ and thus was immediately removed. It has never been reinstated.

Now the same thing has happened to the Easton Voice Facebook account, in suspension after having been flagged, for reasons of which we are not yet aware.

The fact that there are those who feel so insecure about their case that they must misuse a facility such as flagging to silence any challenge to their position is very worrying. Denying a voice to opposition is a tactic more often favoured by those with totalitarian ambitions. We would hope that such anti-democratic sentiment is confined to a minority amongst the supporters of the immensely controversial Easton Safer Streets plans, while the rest still have the confidence in their position, and a sufficient sense of integrity, to engage and debate with those from the community who do not share their certainty.