FOR AS long as I can remember, for at least 20 years, I have been a reader of your paper. Sadly, in recent years I have seen standards fall, largely due to what you allow to appear on your website.
I am not a member of any social networking sites.
This frustrates me as I can see the huge benefits and opportunities they offer.
However, I cannot bring myself to support and be a part of such things as I have become increasingly concerned how they get abused and how little they seem to be policed.
It would seem that comments that would not be acceptable in other mediums, such as in letters, speaking in public and indeed printed in the press, are seen to be acceptable on the likes of Facebook and Twitter etc.
Cyber bullying seems to be becoming an epidemic that seemingly little is done about.
People often complain of an increasing lack of respect and decency in our society; my view is that social media plays a huge part in this, as things that would have previously been seen as unacceptable, now seem commonplace.
Sadly, I can see your newspaper, actually, you could argue ‘our’ newspaper, heading in the same direction.
To give some examples, on your website, a contributor regularly writes very offensive comments about those living in social/affordable housing.
Why have these comments not been removed?
Would you print such comments in your letters page? I doubt it. You have allowed comments about our local MP to degenerate in to personal attacks and name calling. Comments about our district councillors often head in the same direction.
Members of the public not always agreeing with those elected to serve us, and making that known, are part of their job and I applaud people who speak out.
However comments are allowed to become offensive and rude all too easily, no doubt in the name of free speech.
I write this letter ‘for publication’ as I would be very interested to see if others agree with its contents.
You may well argue for freedom of speech but that should not include people being able to say whatever offensive, misleading and disrespectful comments they like.
Please do not allow your website to fall to the same standards as Facebook and Twitter have been allowed to.
As far as they are concerned, the sooner people have to pay for using such social media and have to register with a verifiable name and address, the better.
If people can afford computers, mobile phones and internet access, they can afford say a token £10 per year.
If people are required to register giving verifiable names and addresses, only then will people stop hiding behind aliases and become accountable for their comments and actions.
Maybe charging people a small yearly fee to use such sites would mean more could be invested in properly policing them.