Church of England launches first social media guidelines
Social media guidelines have been published by the Church of England for the first time in a bid to tackle online abuse and misleading content.
The Archbishop of Canterbury will unveil the set of online principles as part of a live Q&A at Facebook’s UK headquarters on Monday.
Justin Welby will also outline a digital charter which the church hopes will try to foster a more positive online atmosphere.
“Social media has transformed the way we live our lives. As Christians we are called to engage in a way which is shaped by the example of Jesus,” Mr Welby said.
“As we respond to the call on each of us to be witnesses to Jesus Christ, I encourage all of us to consider how we live our lives as witnesses online.
“Each time we interact online we have the opportunity either to add to currents of cynicism and abuse or to choose instead to share light and grace.
“My prayer is that through these guidelines and charter we can encourage regular and not-so-regular churchgoers, sceptics and those who are surprised to find themselves interested, to be open to think and experience more of the Christian faith.”
The charter is centred on five principles of truth, kindness, welcome, inspiration and togetherness, with an opportunity for people to sign up in support, the church said.
Meanwhile the social media guidelines include principles such as ensuring the safety of children, young people and vulnerable adults, being honest and not misleading others.
Being kind also features, as does taking responsibility and being accountable for what each person does, says and writes, as well as respecting copyright and always crediting where it is due.
The Church of England said that while the guidelines are written specifically for all users who engage with the church’s and Archbishops’ national social media channels, the guidelines are built on universal principles.
The guidance states: “Social media is a very public way of enabling us as Christians to live out our calling to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
“One of its many joys is that it is immediate, interactive, conversational and open-ended.
“This opportunity comes with a number of downsides if users do not apply the same common sense, kindness and sound judgment that we would use in a face-to-face encounter.”
Both the charter and guidelines have the backing of the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.
“While there is a time and a place for complaint and criticism, too often today this takes place not to encourage improvement but to vilify an individual or group,” he said.
“Sometimes it’s about counting to 10 and asking whether a spiteful statement on social media will change a situation for the better.
“Today, we are saying that the church wishes to be present in the digital sphere, and the same force for social cohesion which it strives to be in the real world, and we want to work alongside social media companies in their work to make social media a safe and enlightening space for all.”
The church said it is hoped that all faiths, as well as those who do not follow religion, will use the charter to consider how their online interactions can affect others, both in a positive and negative way.