It seemed as if everywhere you looked last week the media was flooded with stories surrounding the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood programs. After the foundation announced its decision last Tuesday a tremendous public uproar commenced. Many of the complaints and criticisms were made via social media, with supporters and opponents sounding off on Komen’s Facebook wall, their website’s message boards, and through Twitter. Last Friday, just three days after their initial announcement, Komen reversed their decision.

I have been enamored with this story from the beginning, not just because of the huge risk Komen seemed to be taking, but because of the role social media has played in this story. I believe this case is a great example of just how powerful social media can be.

That being said, the Komen situation brought to light an issue that has great relevance to the public relations and social media fields. A Washington Post blog outlined complaints from users that their comments had been deleted from Komen’s forums and a YouTube video posted on Komen’s Facebook page. The blog also explains Komen denied the accusations.

After taking a close look at Komen’s message boards it is clear the influx of  comments was not handled well by Komen’s administration. The site’s forums are divided into various topics, such as: radiation, inspiration and prayers, and healthful living. After Komen’s initial decision, website visitors left posts on various forums voicing their concerns. It appears as though the forum moderators moved the Planned Parenthood-centered posts in an effort  to be respectful of the breast cancer patients, survivors, etc. who use the forums to have topic-based discussions. However, the  posts simply say “MOVED” with a link once modified by Komen administration. Only later did the administration post a statement explaining how they were handling the Planned Parenthood posts and merging them into a forum titled “Hot Topics.” It is no wonder there was such a backlash of users complaining their opinions were censored. There are 27 different forums; and Komen’s statement explaining how Planned Parenthood posts are handled is buried among the hundreds of threads. The new forum’s name, Hot Topics, isn’t exactly clear either. Why not just create a forum titled “Posts related to Planned Parenthood,” or something along those lines?

The issue of authorities censoring comments on public websites is not new. In fact, politicians are often caught up in these debates. But, it is my  firm belief that it is never a smart PR move to delete unflattering comments unless they pose a serious threat or danger. It is still unclear whether Komen’s administration deleted posts on their various social media accounts, but it is obvious they could make their forums more user-friendly to avoid misunderstandings in the future.

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