Sky News:– The Church of England has issued its first set of guidelines for followers who use social media.
The digital charter is based on five key principles of truth, kindness, welcome, inspiration and togetherness, as well as issues such as the well-being of children and vulnerable adults online – and the spread of fake news.
It coincides with Facebook welcoming the Archbishop of Canterbury to its UK headquarters.
Speaking during a live Q&A session streamed to Facebook from central London, the Most Reverend Justin Welby urged people to use social media to “show kindness” and “put the truth out”.
“It is the golden rule that Jesus talked about that is part of all the major world faiths, which is to treat others as you would like to be treated – it talks about truth, kindness and welcome,” he said.
“When you put something out on social media, put the truth out. There is no such thing as an alternative fact. There is truth. There is absolute truth. There is opinion and there is truth.”
The Church is encouraging people to sign up to the charter to commit to making the internet a better place.
All of the guidelines will be enforced on social media accounts run by the Church, which the archbishop said would help people know “what is being said, and by whom and what kind of people we are” – adding that users should “understand what it means to say something”.
He noted that users often seem to forget they are talking about people when they post things on social media and said people should interact online as they would face-to-face.
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 judgement that we would use in a face-to-face encounter.”
The Church has said it hopes both the charter and guidelines will be followed not just by Christians, but by people of other faiths and those who do not follow a religion.
The charter and guidelines were published as Sky News revealed how MPs have been victim to a sharp rise in “deeply unpleasant, abusive” messages being sent on social media.