Sinn Féin's online guidelines warn members on avoiding 'trolls'

Sinn Féin's online guidelines warn members on avoiding 'trolls'

Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, apologising for posting a controversial tweet about the IRA murder of 18 British soldiers during the Troubles. Picture: Oireachtas TV/PA Wire

Sinn Féin's social media guidelines warn members against "naivety" and how to avoid "trolls", it has emerged.

The party has come under intense scrutiny in the last few weeks over tweets by Sinn Féin TD and Public Accounts Committee chair Brian Stanley.

The 'guidelines for activists' seen by the Irish Examiner warn members not to "get caught into an endless and pointless debate with someone whose view you are not going to change in a million years".

The guidelines suggest checking the profile of the person with whom you are engaging for trolls as they "will be there to goad you — to try and get you to drop your guard and say something inappropriate out of anger or frustration. Don’t fall for it!"

"Be responsible for your content and exercise good judgement and common sense about what you post," say the guidelines. "Remember you are representing more than just yourself so keep your posts clean of any foul language and be respectful in how you respond to people online (no matter how obnoxious they may appear or sound). Don’t send offensive or harassing material to others."

They also instruct members not to discuss any internal party matters on social media. 

"Discussions or debates with other members, about internal party issues, should not be conducted online."

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said the party guidelines for social media where members are asked not to post offensive or harassing material online "are about encouraging respectful and courteous online engagement". 

"Internal party matters should, by definition, be discussed within the party," said the spokesperson. "This does not prevent any member from speaking about any issue.

"Guidelines are provided to members when they join the party and are reissued periodically."

Mr Stanley will come before the Dáil next Tuesday to address the controversy over a number of social media posts, one of which was taken as being homophobic toward Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

Mr Varadkar said the fact that Sinn Féin party leader Mary Lou McDonald "kind of tried to explain all this stuff away, play it down, sends out the wrong message".

"There is a culture in Sinn Féin of bullying and intimidation," said Mr Varadkar. 

"I think, in the way they're dealing with this, they do send out a message that if you're a Sinn Fein supporter and you're gay or you're a young woman or you're mixed race, you'll be celebrated, but if you're an opponent of Sinn Féin and you're gay, or you're mixed race, or you're a young woman, that's fair game. 

"You see that in the way they conduct themselves."

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