At the end of a week in which Ireland starts tackling the urban-rural digital divide to foster rural technological ambitions, a village on the border of Mayo and Galway will be the crossroads of digital debate on Irish shores.
Dublin: 24.11.2014 10.24PM
Fine Gael has been accused of censoring its Facebook page after people’s comments were said to have been deleted when questioning the party's stance on gay marriage.
Earlier in the week, Dublin South East Fine Gael TD Lucinda Creighton posted a tweet stating that while she supported the civil partnership bill, she did not support gay marriage.
When questioned on this, the TD stated across a number of tweets that she believed the purpose of marriage is “primarily about children, main purpose being to propagate and create environment for children to grow up.”
While she said she believed that civil partnership was good to help homosexual couples be treated “fairly and justly” she said marriage was “different.”
The tweets drew outrage across the internet, with many users taking to her Facebook page, posting images and comments to express their disappointment with what she said.
The issue escalated when users took to Fine Gael’s Facebook page to clarify whether or not Creighton’s beliefs were shared with the rest of the party. However, when users posted comments on the page, they found they were then deleted.
According to the Journal.ie, Fine Gael said comments were deleted as they believed there was a “co-ordinated attack” carried out against its site.
Fine Gael also said it deletes posts to “free up space for other people to have their say.”
Damien Mulley of Mulley Communications believed that taking this stance only served to add “more petrol to the fire.”
“What they’re dealing with now is online crisis communications and instead of sorting it all out and putting it to bed, it’s repeating again and again,” he said.
“Fine Gael is hiding away and isn’t addressing the issue. Right now, we’re in a world where there’s a print screen button on every keyboard so people are putting up comments and taking a screen shot of it.
“When their comment, which is a constructive comment more than anything else, is being deleted, straightaway these people are going onto Twitter and showing the screenshot - with the before and the after - and it’s being propagated around the place,” he said.
Indeed, the move has drawn a lot of criticism on their Facebook page and by not addressing it, Facebook users are getting angrier. While a lot of the comments on the page are constructive, a few users uploaded pornographic images to Fine Gael's Facebook page. They have since been removed.
Thanks to Fine Gael's deletion of these comments, Mulley believed the issue has moved beyond gay marriage and could have an impact on Fine Gael's digital strategy campaign.
“It’s gone away from Fine Gael’s attitude to gay marriage and it’s turned into ‘Fine Gael, the censoring party,’” he said.
He also said it had an impact on other comments, saying that people found their posts on environmental issues were being deleted, too.
Mulley recommended that Fine Gael should be completely honest with its stance on gay marriage and take the issue head on, regardless of whether or not it will turn off potential voters. He also believed the party should admit it should not have deleted the comments.
“They should come out and say they were wrong and that whoever was looking after their Facebook page shouldn’t have deleted the comments,” Mulley said.
“They were priding themselves on their website, where they were leaving in negative comments, too, but on Facebook they’re wiping everything.”