Sheriff’s Dept. shuts down Facebook page

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Experts say that Sheriff Bill Gore of the San Diego Sheriffs Department has a constitutional right to regulate the comments that are made on his Facebook page.

Experts say that Sheriff Bill Gore of the San Diego Sheriffs Department has a constitutional right to regulate the comments that are made on his Facebook page.

The lawsuit opens up legal questions over government’s use of social media, and whether public officials should be able to control commentary on the sites.

The San Diego Sheriffs Department has shut down their Facebook page rather than spend time and money defending themselves against a man who claimed they were violating his First Amendment rights by deleting his comments. According to UT San Diego, the Facebook page was removed in response to a lawsuit filed by Dimitrios Karras saying the department deleted two Facebook posts critical of Sheriff Bill Gore before banning him from commenting on the site.

The lawsuit maintains that sites like Facebook pages are a new forum for the public to voice their opinions and, where comment is allowed, all citizens should be able to voice their opinions.

“They must allow speech to be heard, even if it’s obnoxious,” said  McMillan. “Unless it’s something egregious, they have limited latitude in censoring.”

The lawsuit opens up legal questions over government’s use of social media, and whether public officials should be able to control commentary on the sites.

“There is no doubt that the Sheriff can constitutionally regulate the comments that are made on his Facebook page,” San Diego Senior Deputy County Counsel Thomas Bunton wrote in a court filing, referring to a previous court ruling stating the government “may limit the forum to certain groups or subjects” as long as it does not discriminate based upon viewpoint.

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