Internet Trolls, Fake News, and Maintaining Public Trust

Notes from the airport: Recap of a roundtable discussion at the ICMA Annual Conference

Oct 26, 2017 | BLOG POST

by Gerald Young, senior research associate, ICMA

The end of some conferences means a ghost-town feel, as attendees have already headed home. At the ICMA Annual Conference this week in San Antonio/Bexar County, Texas, the sessions on late Tuesday afternoon and early Wednesday morning as the conference wound down still attracted plenty of motivated members for small group discussions, keynote speeches, and ICMA University Forums.

Wednesday's roundtable session on "Frictionless Government: Tech's Role in Maintaining the Public Trust" was one of the last events of the week, but knowing how to address internet trolls and fake news was a topic on everyone's minds. Among the practices attendees suggested were:

  • Getting the real news out early and often, both good and bad, so the public trusts you'll be the best source for the facts.
  • Where outside social media blogs are sharing misinformation, limit your direct engagement. Consider a single response that shares a link to the full story on the jurisdiction's website.
  • Try inviting your critics to meet with the public information officer (PIO) in person for a listening session and an opportunity to share more accurate information.
  • Clarify your policies for online engagement--particularly when there may be an issue with open meetings laws if multiple elected officials may be commenting.
  • Coordinate with key influencers in the community so they know how to engage with PIOs.
  • Adopt consistent branding across departments so the public can recognize official content.
  • Use SpeakUp, HootSuite, Google Analytics, or other tools to maximize your social media engagement and tracking.
  • Consider where other regional entities (other jurisdictions, COGs, nonprofits or universities) may be effective partners or neutral third parties in helping to share information.
  • Post a Q&A page around major projects or controversial topics to dispel rumors. 

And whether you're just arriving home today, participated in the Virtual Conference, or happen to be reading this blog next week, what ideas do you have to suggest to help maintain that public trust? Share your thoughts via ICMA Connect.   



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