If a town has social media pages, does it have the right to remove comments that are critical?

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July 8, 2016 by Paul Dughi

FB

We may soon find out.  The ACLU of Indiana is suing Beech Grove (an Indianapolis suburb) on behalf of two people who say the city deleted their critical comments on the PD’s FB page.  The lawsuit says it violating the two women’s First Amendment rights.

“When a government entity opens up a space for public comment, it cannot regulate those comments based upon someone’s viewpoint…By giving itself unbridled discretion to determine what comments it deems acceptable, the City of Beech Grove has put all public speech on its social media sites at risk of further censorship.” – Jan Mensz, ACLU of Indiana staff attorney via WTHR-TV

It’s an interesting question and another example of how law hasn’t quite caught up to social media.  It’s also nice to see that the plaintiffs, and ACLU, aren’t asking for money out of this deal.  The two plaintiffs just want their comments posted.

“The government doesn’t have a right to single out individuals,” Kymberly Quick, one of the plaintiffs via WTHR-TV

The city attorney, according to the News & Observer, says he believes the city has a “constitutional basis” to defend itself against the lawsuit, but says they will likely try to settle to avoid the cost of litigation.

In case you’re wondering, the ACLU says the critical posts were questioning the city’s crime reporting and complaints about slow removal of political yard signs.

 

 

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