Tennessee Town Bans Negative Comments On Social Media Sites


The South Pittsburg City Commission voted 4-1 on Dec. 9 to ban city employees, board members, contractors, elected officials, vendors and volunteers from saying anything negative about the Tennessee town on social media sites and beyond.

The new law forbids these people from saying anything bad about the town or anyone connected with the town on blogs, videos and social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

"It seems like every few meetings we're having to address something that's been on Facebook and created negative publicity," Commissioner Jeff Powers told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "This is just an industry standard nowadays."

However, it's not clear what Commissioner Powers meant by "industry standard" as the First Amendment applies to the web.

The lone vote against the town-wide censorship was Commissioner Paul Don King.

"But what we [the board] are trying to say is that if I'm a city employee, you're trying to tell me what I can say at night," said Commissioner King. "I call that freedom of speech. I can't understand that."

Commissioner Powers countered: "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."

"What this policy tries to do is reconcile that right with other rights," claimed Gouger. "It does, to some extent, limit your ability to criticize or comment in an official capacity."

“It is not a new concept,” South Pittsburg Mayor Jane Dawkins told Bloomberg Businessweek in a Facebook message.

Mayor Dawkins said the policy is supposed to stop people from posting employees’ salaries or police officers’ schedules on Facebook, but that's not what the policy says.

“This lets people know that the officer’s spouse and children are home alone or that no one is at home,” claimed Mayor Dawkins. “I did not commission this. Commissioner Jeff Powers did.”

Sources: Bloomberg Businessweek, Chattanooga Times Free Press
Image Credit: Julo, derivative work of Padeluun's and VaGla's works


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