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Friday, June 10, 2016

List of Blocked Twitter Accounts May be Public Record Subject to Release

A question without a clear answer - something only a local government lawyer would find interesting?  Here it is:
Whether a list or record of accounts that have been blocked from posting to or accessing an elected official's personal Twitter feed is a public record.
This question was posed by the Gainesville City Attorney to the Florida Attorney General recently. The Attorney General issued an advisory legal opinion last week. Although the opinion does not provide specific advice to the City Attorney, it does give some insight or guidance on the issue.  First, the opinion states that the Florida Public Records law applies to materials made or received by an agency in connection with the transaction of business.  Second, the opinion states that if the tweets the public official is sending are public records, then a list of blocked accounts, prepared in connection with those public record "tweets" could be determined by a court to be a public record.

In other words, the answer to the question depends on a few factors.  First, is the tweet itself a public record?  Second, did the public body prepare a list of blocked accounts?  Third, if the answer to both of these questions is yes, then the list of blocked accounts is probably releasable.

The problem with this analysis is that the public official's tweets could be a mix of communications about official business and personal matters, and any list that the public official created of his or her blocked accounts could also include a mix of accounts blocked because of official business or personal matters. Based on the analysis in this opinion, the public official could redact from the list any accounts that were blocked as a result of personal tweets and release the rest.  

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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