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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Town Bans Negative Social Media Speech

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the town of South Pittsburg, Tennessee recently adopted a social media policy that bans people from posting negative comments on social media.  The policy applies to all city elected representatives, appointed board members, employees, volunteers, vendors, contractors and anyone associated with the town in an official capacity. The policy states that those persons cannot post anything negative on social networks about the city, its employees or associates. It also prohibits any posting that would be considered defamatory or libelous. 

The mayor has defended the policy by saying it is necessary to protect employees and their families from release of sensitive information such as employees' salaries or police officers' schedules.  One of the town commissioner's defends the policy as follows: 
The first thing everyone wants to say is, ‘I can’t post anything on Facebook. Well, you can. Just not [anything] that sheds a negative light on any person, entity, board, or things of that nature.
Those of you who regularly read this blog may be shaking your collective heads, wondering if this small town of 3,000 people have ever heard of the First Amendment.  I would certainly be cautious about advising a local government about the potential constitutional implications of enacting a ban on critical or negative postings on social media.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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