Deputies come out against anonymous social media

STATES members have clarified their views over the use of anonymous online social media posts to the Guernsey Press in the wake of Deputy Chris Le Tissier using so-called ‘burner’ accounts to hide his identity while attacking others.

 (Yui Mok/PA) (29440475)
(Yui Mok/PA) (29440475)

More than 30 deputies responded to Guernsey Press questions on the issue, which has seen Deputy Le Tissier criticised by the States Members’ Conduct Panel for being ‘deliberately deceptive’ and now facing a vote to expel him from the Assembly.

In all, 31 replied – the majority expressly saying they have never used burner accounts – and used the opportunity to explain their attitudes towards anonymity and social media.

Six deputies – Andy Cameron, David de Lisle, Mark Helyar, David Mahoney, Aidan Matthews and Simon Vermeulen – did not respond. Neil Inder, who did, later retracted his comments.

Many were opposed to elected officials making public comment without being clearly identified, although there was acknowledgement that there were circumstances in which this could be justified.

Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez suggested the example of a woman deputy perhaps joining an online forum for emotional support on personal issues ‘where there would be no justifiable public interest in what she might be posting’.

Home Affairs president Rob Prow raised the wider issue of how social media was used generally, including the responsibilities of service providers, and said international as well as local debate was required.

Others could not see that anonymity was justified.

‘Why the need to hide?’ asked Lester Queripel.

John Dyke, however, understood that quite a few deputies did use burner accounts, something he said was inadvisable and a waste of time.

John Gollop, who has more than 9,000 social media followers, took the opportunity to express regret for something he did anonymously more than 30 years ago – opposing Powerboat Week. He was not a States member at the time.

What we asked States members: Whether they had ever used a ‘burner account’, if so, why, and whether they thought people should be allowed to remain anonymous online.

Under the code of conduct, States members ‘shall at all times conduct themselves in a manner which will tend to maintain and strengthen the public’s trust and confidence in the integrity of the States of Deliberation and never undertake any action which would bring the States, or its members generally, into disrepute.

  • The full responses from each politician are published inside today's Guernsey Press on pages 16 and 17.

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