Communicating on Social Media

One of the problems that the nuclear industry has always had is that where communications are concerned it has to play the game on a very slanted playing field.

Anti-nuclear campaigners are allowed to lie, deceive, make up numbers, create conspiracy theories out of vague suggestions and be abusive.  No one ever holds them accountable.  I am not sure why this is but I suspect it’s because they are seen as passionate individuals and society cuts these people a massive break.

But the industry is expected to be factual, assiduously accurate, calm, comprehensive and polite.  If we ever make a mistake there are howls of protest. 

This has led to a situation where the anti-nuclear activists can respond quickly to anything in the media, because they have no need to check facts, and don’t really feel obliged to stick to facts anyway.  They don’t even need to consider how they go about saying something as they will be forgiven regardless.   Meanwhile the nuclear industry must check all its facts and consider carefully from every angle the way it may be perceived.  This often takes so much time that the news cycle is lost and nothing gets published or the anti-nuclear message has already had time to embed and is hard to move. 

In turn this means that the anti-nuclear activists are overrepresented in the media, social media etc because they provide timely and exciting quotes while the nuclear industry often cannot respond in time and when it does it can be dull, unquotable, and not appealing to the journalist.

And because people are dramatically influenced by what they see most of and lies become the truth by repetition the anti-nuclear arguments have an inappropriate amount of influence.

When we set up the Canadian Nuclear Society’s process for approval, we had this in mind.  It is comprehensive but streamlined but even that cannot move at the pace of social media. 

But while the industry itself has to be very cautious many of our members can move more quickly.  Many know their subject very well and can confidently write about it without the need for peer review.  Others may be prepared to put in the research and assure themselves of what they are writing before going live, and others just write about their experience.  It all helps.  

We are now seeing more and more of this happening and the anti-nuclear activists, unused to having their lies exposed, are on the run and getting desperate.  In their desperation they are making more and more mistakes as their conventional battlegrounds collapse underneath them and they need to find new ones.

I follow the “Ignace Discussion Group” Facebook page.  It was set-up by the community to discuss issue of interest and serves a wonderful function of advising people about local events, the specials at the town’s restaurants and providing an opportunity to discuss local politics.  But it was overtaken by a small group of NIMBY’s who do not want the Deep Geologic Repository near them and these people did not restrict themselves to issues of regional interest they based their campaign on scaremongering about the nuclear industry in general.

They expected a free ride, but they did not get it.  One of our members Jaro Franta, fought back and was quickly joined by others including Sheila Whytock and it even attracted attention from others abroad that had no particular interest in what happened in the region but wanted to correct the falsehoods.  I joined in as well as an individual not as CNS. 

Here is an example of the sort of things that happen. 

It was initiated by a letter in the Thunder Bay Journal Chronicle.

This letter was then posted by an anti-nuclear group into a facebook page.  I cannot give you the link as they block anyone that corrects their misinformation and so I am blocked. But Jaro stumbled across it and did a fact check which he posted to linkedin from which he could circulate links.

Much of the work I am doing involves informing you, our membership, so that you will have the information at your fingertips that you need to engage as well, either in this community or whatever other communities you are involved with.  Please let me know if there is other information that you need.

It is difficult to be sure on the effect we are having.  Being right is not always helpful and presently we have no way of monitoring the effects and the industry, if it does collect OPEX on communications issues is not very good at sharing it.  But that’s for another blog.