Blocking the block button

Earlier this week on my FaceBook page, I posted my thoughts on the use of social-media blocking by elected officials.

The post has generated a fair bit of discussion, which is encouraging as many people have taken the time to express differing points of view. From my perspective, when there is a large amount of interest on an issue, it is one that citizens see as important.

On the surface, an elected official blocking someone through social media may not seem like a significant event. 

However, for the growing population who do use social media, blocking denies a person their voice to be heard.

By extension, as social media increasingly has become a tool for citizens to hold elected officials to account, the careless use of the block button by elected officials has become an easy way out instead of answering a difficult or unpopular question. 

I have even learned of a practice called pre-emptive blocking where groups of citizens may be blocked by an elected official they have never interacted with online.

We would never tolerate guilt by association off line, yet it has become an online practice by some elected officials and their senior staff.

To be clear, I will continue to defend the right of elected officials to practise whatever social media policies they feel most comfortable with. Likewise, personal attacks, profanity and threats on social media should not be tolerated.

At the same, I caution those who use the block button as a means to avoid accountability or debate. Social media ideally work both ways and citizens deserve the right to be heard.

On that note, I am suggesting that elected officials, and those media and pundits who cover politics, to consider a social media forgiveness campaign.

How about un-block (or un-mute) all those citizens you have blocked and give them a second chance to engage. 

This might not work in all situations, but elected officials being exposed to more diverse views and being held to account in my view helps build a stronger democracy.

I welcome your comments, questions and concerns and can be reached online at [email protected] or call me off-line toll free at 1-800-665-8711.


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About the Author

Dan Albas, Conservative member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, is the shadow minister of innovation, science, economic development and internal trade, and sits on the standing committee on finance.

Before entering public life, Dan was the owner of Kick City Martial Arts, responsible for training hundreds of men, women and youth to bring out their best.

In British Columbia, Dan has been consistently one of the lowest spending MPs on office and administration related costs despite operating two offices to better serve local constituents.

Dan is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 most active members of Parliament on Twitter (@danalbas) and continues to write a weekly column published in many local newspapers and on this website.

He can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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