Durham city leaders update social media policy following protest rumor mill

Jillian Johnson (CBS North Carolina)


DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Durham city leaders say more and more elected officials are using social media to share information with you.

With the protests in Durham erupting almost two weeks ago, an updated social media policy with new standards is coming to make sure the information they give you is true.

On August 18, several hours after unverified information was sent out to the public across social media, protesters turned out in full force in Durham streets.

Now, nearly two weeks later, the city of Durham’s social media policy is getting a bit of a makeover.

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A new standard in the draft of the policy says, “Officials should not post or share information known to be false, or unconfirmed rumors about the city.”

City councilmember Jillian Johnson was criticized for her tweets in the moments leading up to the protests.

One of those tweets read, “White supremacists are marching at the new courthouse in Durham at noon today.”

RELATED: Durham councilwoman who tweeted rumor says info came from sheriff

The City would like elected officials to get all information confirmed before it gets sent out to you.

“The entire sentence bothers me but I can live with it if ‘unconfirmed rumors’ were removed,” said councilman Charlie Reece. “I don’t know what that means. I think I understand what you’re trying to get at, and what recent incident caused us to want that phrase in there, but I think it causes more trouble than it’s worth.”

Mayor Bill Bell says that confirmation can come from the source.

“I would’ve tried to contact the city manager, someone in my opinion in an official position that would be able to either say yes, or no, or I don’t know,” he said.

The new standard goes on to say, “Officials should be honest, and accurate when posting information or news, and should quickly correct any mistakes, misstatements and/or factual errors in content upon discovery.”

“I think it adds a level of urgency to our responsibility to put out accurate information and if we’ve errored, to correct that as quickly as possible,” said Reece. “I think that’s fantastic.”

The entire council will have a chance to weigh in on this during the next work session on September 7.

After that session, it gets voted on during the city council meeting on September 18.

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