TN City Bans Negative Social Media Comments About City Government, Employees, Contractors
At a December city commission meeting in South Pittsburg, TN, commissioners voted 4 to 1 to enact a policy forcing city contractors, employees, elected officials, and anyone doing business in any capacity with the city to sign an agreement stating that they will not make any negative comments on social media about the city or its employees, elected officials, and contractors.
Social media and mobile technology have empowered civic activism on levels before unseen. Matters that once went on behind closed doors now emerge in vivid detail on YouTube, and activists, alternative media journalists, and everyday people use sites like Facebook and Twitter to express themselves on issues that would have in the past been ignored by mainstream media outlets. However, the increased transparency and civic engagement come at a cost to elected officials and bureaucrats who prefer doing business in smoky backrooms without debate or public comment.
According to Chattanooga Times Free Press, city officials in South Pittsburg, TN have been overwhelmed by negative comments on social media and consequently enacted a new policy, passed in a 4-1 vote at a December city commission meeting, banning all elected officials, city employees, city contractors, and anyone else doing official business with the city from making any negative comments on their private social media accounts about anyone or anything with any connection to city government. The policy falls short of criminalizing negative comments by citizens not directly affiliated with the government, but does force elected officials, contractors, city employees, and anyone else doing business of any kind with the city to sign a contract which stipulates that they be punished in the event that they violate the rule. The rule specifically states that affected parties are banned from making negative social media comments about the city itself, its elected officials, and its associates, which would seemingly include private contractors.
Commissioner Jeff Powers, a supporter of the policy, explained his frustrations with social media comments to Chattanooga Times Free Press, “It seems like every few meetings we’re having to address something that’s been on Facebook and created negative publicity.” He also said, addressing critics of the policy, “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. You can go ahead and post all you want.”
Barry Donegan is a writer, musician, and pro-liberty political activist living in Nashville, TN. Donegan served as Director-at-Large of the Davidson County Republican Party from 2009-2011 and was the Middle Tennessee Regional Coordinator over 30 counties for Ron Paul’s 2012 Presidential Campaign. Follow him at facebook.com/barry.donegan and twitter.com/barrydonegan
© Ben Swann 2014
The description text of the posted video states “City officials say the policy is intended to fight criticism – and lies.”
Two quick thoughts on those regards, not being familiar with the political agenda of the city of South Pittsburg, TN.
- Could the criticism be well deserved, either from voters not being represented by those they voted for to represent them or by some elected officials pointing out issues within the political machine that need the light of day?
- One would guess in South Pittsburg’s effort to fight “lies” that using truth would not fit the agenda, or then why turn to censorship?