Updates on cases, laws, and other topics of interest to local governments

Subscribe by Email

Enter your Email:
Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Subscribe in a Reader

Follow Municipal Minute on Twitter


Blog comments do not reflect the views or opinions of the Author or Ancel Glink. Some of the content may be considered attorney advertising material under the applicable rules of certain states. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Please read our full disclaimer

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lawsuit Claims City Facebook Page is a Public Forum

On Tuesday, a lawsuit was filed against the City and County of Honolulu alleging that the City violated the First Amendment by removing comments posted by certain individuals on the City Police Department's (HPD) official Facebook page and banning those individuals from the site.  Hawaii Defense Foundation, et al. v. City and County of Honolulu, et al., CV 12 00469 (filed August 21, 2012).  The lawsuit claims that the HPD created a public forum on its Facebook page, and analogized the site to a public park, a traditional public forum.  According to the complaint, the HPD had removed  comments that were critical of the police department solely based on the content or viewpoint of the speech, rather than for violation of the HPD's Facebook use policy.  That policy prohibits comments that are obscene, sexually explicit, racially derogatory, defamatory, solicits or is an advertisement, and that suggests or encourages illegal activities.

As reported on this blog previously, there is little or no case law on the application of the First Amendment to government social media sites.  Consequently, there is little guidance for municipalities in how to administer their social media sites or enforce their terms of use policies.  It will be interesting to see how this case is resolved, and particularly whether the district court will accept the plaintiffs' argument that a Facebook page is a traditional public forum for purposes of a First Amendment claim.

We will keep you posted on this case. 

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink 


Post a Comment