Members of Business Victoria’s Facebook Group, “I am a business owner in Victoria”, have complained of bullying and trolling in the group.
The popular group has 9611 members and is administered by staff from Business Victoria.
The description of the group highlights the inclusive and supportive aims of the group. However, members say these ambitions are being lost.
“This group is a networking tool run by the Victorian Government where people genuinely interested in small business can feel comfortable sharing, connecting and receiving help,” the description states.
Small-business owner Linda Reed- Enever quit the group this week after being subjected to bullying in the group.
Reed-Enever posted a farewell to the group outlining her reasons for leaving: “The time has come for me to leave I am a Business Owner VIC. I have seen so much bullying and negativity in the past week that it is now undoing the good I see from the group so I need to clear my head off it,” the post reads.
“Emma Cameron, Joe Looker and the team, I appreciate the work it takes to run a group but for awhile I have not wanted post or comment here because of the tone of what was once a great group has changed, so that is it I am out and the bullies win.”
Craig Reardon, owner of web-services business The E Team and SmartCompany blogger, says the Business Victoria Facebook group has “gone into meltdown” over the past few weeks.
“In the absence of strict guidelines, the group has become infested with what I would call bullies, trolls and hackers,” he said.
Reardon says this is “simply not acceptable” for the official social network of a government department.
“I have constantly queried the lack of guidelines – and suffered the consequences of a range of abusive comments and techniques, obviously promoted by those with a vested interest in keeping it ‘free speech’,” he said.
Reed-Enever told SmartCompany she does not blame Business Victoria administrators for her decision to quit the group.
“Business Victoria has done a great job with the group and the admins have done a great job in dealing with the issues when they are raised,” she said. “It is what happens when you get 10,000 people in a group – sometimes the tone will change.”
Reed-Enever says she just decided she had enough. “Being in PR, I try to help businesses, but I got to a stage where I didn’t want to comment or provide advice as I didn’t want the backlash or second opinions,” she said. “It’s a minority of the group abusing the privileges”.
Reed-Enever says administrators can only do so much. “People expect a hell of a lot out of a free platform,” she said.
Reed-Enever advises clients if they wouldn’t hire a billboard or a truck or a megaphone to say something, then don’t say it on Facebook.
“People were saying things because they were behind a computer, that they wouldn’t say face to face,” she said.
A spokesperson for Business Victoria told SmartCompany, like any business setting, people are expected to behave professionally at all times on the Facebook group.
“Sometimes people lose their cool on social media, and we’ll remind them to keep things nice,” the spokesperson said.
“Repeated un-business like behaviour won’t be tolerated and members will be banned. We will also kick people off instantly for racist, sexist or inappropriate comments, in line with the community moderation guidelines. Small business owners are welcome, but bad behaviour is not.”