Tuesday, June 30, 2015

L.A. Mayor's Office Shares Their Twitter Block List

I came across this Tweet posted back in 2011 and it got my attention because it indicated that other people than just myself have been thinking about the issue of open records and social media for a long time.  This Twitter user obviously gets it!  When public officials use their social media account to discuss their position/job/public business/etc. then that electronic data becomes part of the public record!  It really is that easy!

Like it or not, people are getting blocked by the Twitter accounts run by a wide variety of public officials and agencies for a wide variety reasons.  I've found users who admit to posting obnoxious Tweets with an understanding of why they've been blocked, but I also have found many more people who claim they have no idea why they've been blocked or feel that their activity should have in no way earned them the distinction of being blocked.

Let's take a look at a response to a public records request I sent to the L.A. Mayor's Office.  As you can see, the current Mayor Eric Garcetti blames the previous administration, run by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, for all of the Twitter account blocking activity.

*By the way, you can submit your own public records request to public agencies that you find on Twitter!

We may not ever know exactly why the Twitter accounts of @JeffPussy,  @pucicemaxyp,  @CurlyGirlsRock,  @rhi_taggart,  @mkbinla,  @movieguns,  @tomroberts,  @wantedcalgov1,  @MooProducts,  @tvincome,  @merijoe5139, or @LeeVandenBrink were blocked to begin with.  That's because these people had their 5th Amendment due process rights violated.  The previous Mayor or the staff running the Twitter account had their own arbitrary reasons to block these 12 users.  There are no rules governing how one gets blocked or how one gets unblocked.  Your liberty to read public records can arbitrarily be taken away by sending a Tweet to the @LAMayorsOffice on a responding staffer's bad hair day and you'll forever be denied access to a public Twitter account.

Interestingly, these 12 users did not send any offensive Tweets to the @LAMayorsOffice during the current Mayor's term (they couldn't, they've been blocked).  So, why doesn't Mayor @EricGarcetti unblock these people?  The @MooProducts account has gone unused since 2012 and the Mayor finds it necessary to keep this account blocked?  At what point do these people get to see the Tweets posted by the publicly funded @LAMayorsOffice Twitter account?  And why does the Mayor think it is acceptable to link his personal Twitter account, @EricGarcetti, to the public @LAMayorsOffice account?  Does he find it acceptable to gain personal benefit from his public position?  That's a lot of potential followers and other related Twitter activity he sends to himself.

Again, I don't know what any of these blocked users posted to "deserve" to be blocked, but I know I was blocked by Atlanta Mayor @KasimReed for simply posting a Tweet to him in which I informed him of the Constitutional violations at play when an elected official engages in Twitter blocking (see article Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is blocking constituents and journalists on Twitter by Sean Breslin.)

However, not only is due process an issue, but so is your First Amendment right to redress your government for grievances and free speech, but also your Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection.  Twitter fails to make users distinguish between the creation of public versus private versus campaign account and so the end result is a public official signs on to Twitter and feels entitled to use one account for a whole host of purposes.

We can't allow for our Constitution to become meaningless for those to whom it applies and we can't complacently allow our public officials and agencies to block voices of dissent from viewing or responding to their publicly posted Tweets.