The National Pony Society (NPS) has reminded members of its social media rules after “numerous complaints” about online posts.
In its most recent newsletter, the NPS said it is now looking into a combined policy with other showing societies, with the aim of “strengthening the possible outcomes if unacceptable comments/behaviour are observed”.
“Derogatory and unacceptable comments made against the society, its judges and the membership cannot be accepted and we could ask everyone to be mindful of this when posting or commenting in public – what may seem harmless to you may be deeply offensive to others,” the newsletter states.
NPS vice-chairman Stephen Howard said the inappropriate use of social media is “definitely on the increase”.
“We’ve noticed it for a couple of years, where what starts as banter can become quite personal and pointed,” Mr Howard told H&H.
“It’s something people are becoming more keen to alert us to and although we can’t be everywhere, when it’s drawn to our attention, we have to take some sort of action.
“We want to work with other societies to make sure we have a combined approach to it. We don’t want to be seen as heavy-handed; we want to ensure we have the same sort of guidelines, so members are aware there are penalties and consequences of abusing people online and bringing societies into disrepute.”
Examples drawn to the NPS’ attention include “quite violent” criticism, of judges or winning horses.
“If it’s just that someone didn’t like the judging, that’s fine,” Mr Howard said. “But it can get personal, about the judge or other members, and it can be libellous.
“People seem to forget that what they’re doing could be illegal.”
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Mr Howard said that in the last six months, the NPS has issued formal written warnings to three members “to do with the way they’ve behaved on social media”.
“Hopefully, by putting it out there that we’re not prepared to stand for it, it will make people think twice,” he added.
“People should realise that it’s not acceptable and won’t be tolerated.”