President Aquino’s Facebook Page Censored

The hostage drama last August 23, 2010 (Monday) which unfolded in our very eye is testing the patience and tolerance of the Philippine government, particularly newly installed President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

In this age of innovation, what happens in one country can be seen by the world in almost realtime – we have TV, radio and the Internet. The hostage crisis and the alleged mishandling of the entire situation was seen by almost everyone which illicited various reaction. The question is, where will they air their grievances and disappointments? Where else but to use the world’s most popular social networking site to date – Facebook.

President Aquino created his Facebook page to promote transparency, a good strategy actually but in every endeavor like this, there’s always a good side and a bad side. Right now, we are seeing the bad side of this move. Angry netizens and President Aquino detractors are flooding the page with slanderous and defamatory comments and posts, swear words and racial insults, some related to the hostage crisis, and some just wants to bash.

But that is the very nature of social networks – transparency and open communication. One would be open to praises and at the same time criticisms. And because of the barrage of unplesant posts, President Benigno Aquino or whoever is in-charge of this page censored his Facebook page after users ignored an appeal to stop bashing the Philippine government. His Facebook account is followed by 1.9 million fans.

So how effective is Facebook censorship? I can tell you, it will go nowhere. Why?

Censoring defamatory comments and posts is time consuming, banning users will also be useless since it’s so easy to create a new account. After the announcement of the censorship, a new account was already created to criticize the move. A new account means a new venue to vent their ill feelings. President Aquino or whoever is in-charge of his Facebook page should realize the nature of social networks and the behavior of netizens. The internet has a lot of rules – rules that nobody follow. Censorship? Nobody likes censorship.

Creating a Facebook page for the President seems to be a good idea at first, but if I were to do one, I would have waited for awhile. President Aquino is barely 100 days in his presidency – to me having a a dedicated Facebook page at this time is too early still. If you open a Facebook fanpage, one should be ready for anything and everything. If you go beyond the very essense of having a Facebook page then more problems will occur.

Joining social networks is a good strategy – for government and for businesses. Its effective if done carefully. My strategy would be to create a page specifically for complains or in the corporate world, we call it customer relation office where people can post their opinions. A group of people should be assigned to manage this page because people who will be posting on this page has various reasons for postings – they could just be posting their opinions, postings just to annoy or they will be expecting actions.

In general, if you cannot take bad comments, do not create a Facebook page, better yet do not join social networking sites. Censoring the page creates more problems than solutions. Emotions are high, let it simmer a bit then remove the defamatory comments and posts later. It’s all about timing.

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