We try really hard not to censor viewer comments on the KARK and Fox16 Facebook pages. We want to encourage open discussion and conversation. We love when our pages are used to make connections and start dialogue between people who wouldn’t otherwise interact. That’s the good of social media.
However, Facebook can also be used to spread harsh language and racial slurs. It can be used to escalate personal attacks and make threats. That’s the bad of the medium.
That’s exactly what happened with the January 7 story involving the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old at the hands of North Little Rock Police. Officers say the teen was spotted with a gun during a routine traffic stop. They say officers and the suspect struggled over the weapon. The teen suspect eventually shot at officers and police returned fire killing him, according to a news release from NLRPD. Family and friends of the teen say the situation didn’t go exactly as described and they aren’t getting answers from law enforcement.
Certainly, it’s tragic on all sides. It’s also a situation where there’s much we still don’t know.
After putting the story on Facebook, users began posting things like “good job police” and “another thug off the streets” which generated backlash. We had viewers alert us to comments that included threats against the lives of law enforcement. I personally went through and deleted dozens of posts I felt contained harsh language, slurs, threats, or personal attacks unrelated to the story.
I added the following comment from the station accounts to the story thread: “We have had to ban users who posted racial slurs and curse words on this thread. Please keep comments clean. No matter your opinion, please remember parents lost a son.”
It’s unfortunate the story escalated in this capacity. We don’t want our pages used as a platform to drive a wedge between people. Our goal is to use the pages to spread content and video to keep Arkansans informed.
For now, we’ll keep the posts up and hope the comments and conversation are respectful moving forward. If that’s not the case, we’ll have to remove the story from Facebook entirely. To the best of my knowledge, we’ve only done that once before.
Let’s please keep it civil.
Don’t agree with the stance? Think we should’ve gone in a different direction? Let me know in the comments.