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

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

PAC Says List of Blocked Social Media Users is Subject to FOIA

In a recent advisory opinion, the PAC office of the Illinois Attorney General found a public body in violation of FOIA because it failed to turn over records pertaining to blocked Twitter and Facebook accounts and users. The requester had filed a FOIA requesting a list of all persons or users who had been blocked on the village's social media accounts. The village denied the request saying it had no responsive records. The requester claims he then forwarded to the village a screenshot of his own account showing he had been blocked from the village's account. Shortly thereafter, he filed a request for review with the PAC.

The village argued that the requested records were not public records because they are maintained by the third party social media providers. The village also argued that compiling those records would require the creation of new records which is not required by FOIA. The PAC disagreed, finding that (1) the records are public records and (2) the village could download the information through a link which did not constitute the creation of records, in the PAC's opinion. 2020 PAC 63566

In what seems to be "dicta," the PAC also appeared to suggest that the village violated FOIA by not preserving lists of any accounts it had blocked. As we all know, FOIA is not a records retention statute - records retention and preservation obligations are contained in the Local Records Act. The Local Records Act is not within the PAC's jurisdiction, which is limited to FOIA and Open Meetings Act. It does not appear from the opinion that the village actually destroyed records which could be relevant under FOIA. Instead, the PAC seemed focused on the village's records retention obligations, which is a topic more properly addressed by the State Archivist or Local Records Commission.

The key takeaway is that social media records pertaining to blocked users or accounts will be considered public records by the PAC subject to release under FOIA. 


Post a Comment