The Facebook Group Paradox – debate or petition?

My thanks to Lisa Schiff of Narracoorte Lucindale Council in South Australia for bringing this article (below) from the Adelaide Advertiser’s Adelaide Now Website to my attention.

This is about the beautiful Barossa Valley region rejecting an application to open a McDonalds in the area.  Astonished as I am that anyone could reject the healthy meaty charms of a convenient local Macca’s, the reason I am highlighting this is the reporting of the Facebook debate which I think throws light on a genuine problem with Facebook Groups.

Adelaide Now reports that the Pro Maccas Facebook group got 1613 fans while the antis got 1376 fans.  Clearly the media are interpreting the group membership as a petition. This is in line with the way these groups are often used but we also know that many organisations also seek comment, discussion and debate using Facebook groups.

What does this mean for discussion and debate within a Facebook Group?  To join a discussion you have to first join the group.  If this action is to be interpreted as an expression of your support for the premise of the group, then those against the proposition cannot get involved and debate the issue without undermining their position by appearing to support the group through their membership.

I suppose this is not such an issue when the name of the group is neutral, but still, I think perhaps Facebook should consider dis aggregating petitions from discussion spaces to sort this confusion out and to encourage a constructive dialogue on issues.

Development Assessment Panel rejects Barossa McDonalds restaurant proposal

McDONALD’S cannot open a store in the Barossa Valley, the Development Assessment Panel has ruled, ending a long-running battle that had turned locals into arch enemies.

At the Barossa council chambers in Nuriootpa this evening, the panel voted 6-1 to reject the Barossa Hub development, which included plans for a McDonald’s restaurant.

The issue has pitted locals against each other, with one side determined to protect the integrity of the region’s gourmet food, while the other group wanted easy access to fast food.

The opposing sides had mounted Facebook campaigns, with the Say no to Maccas in the Barossa group had 1376 fans, while Let Maccas Come to the Barossa had 1613 fans.

The plans for the Nuriootpa centre on Railway Tce had included a large `bulky goods retailing’ complex, a warehouse, the restaurant, and 118 car parking spaces.

Tanunda resident and export manager for Peter Lehmann Wineries, Howard Duncan, was at the meeting to represent residents opposed the development.

He said that he never thought the proposal would pass, and was happy with the result.

“This is a good result for the planning of the town.”

MasterPlan Director Greg Vincent was representing the applicant, Hames Sharley.

“There is no appeal rights for the applicant, and they will now need to consider their future options at this point.” He said.

Celebrity chef Maggie Beer has previously said the region’s reputation needed to be protected and a McDonald’s outlet ” would be like a thorn in the valley’s side”.

“Within the development plan of the town, there is a desired character statement which says there is to be no additional fast-food restaurant in the design,” he said.

Photo Credit: Eneas De Troya

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