The ACLU of Georgia is continuing to caution government officials against censoring comments on their social media networks. The group sent its latest warning to Republican State Sen. John Albers after nine Georgians complained they were blocked from posting on his Facebook page.
In recent months, the civil liberties group has also notified nearly a dozen local law enforcement agencies and politicians, including U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and Rep. John Lewis, of similar first amendment concerns.
“When a government official creates a Facebook or Twitter page and opens it up for members of the public to comment on, they can’t then go and discriminate against certain people because of viewpoints that they may have,” said Sean Young, legal director at the ACLU of Georgia.
He said official government pages should operate like town halls.
“You can’t have an open town hall and say ‘ok as soon as someone starts talking and getting emotional or saying mean things about me, then we’re going to take your mic away,” Young said.
As of Wednesday, when the ACLU sent its warning, Sen. Albers has changed the banner on his Facebook page. A picture of his family is now displayed in place of what was previously an image that included his official title and district.
An informational panel that used to describe his profession as “Senator at State of Georgia” now reads “This is my personal page. For news & information visit: senatoralbers.com or legis.ga.gov. Thanks.”
“We appreciate the initial steps Senator Albers appears to have taken to separate any government page from his personal page. We hope that Senator Albers, as well as all elected officials, will continue to provide a forum where constituents can make their voices heard,” Young said upon seeing the changes.
A statement from Albers’ Senate office read in part, “Unfortunately social media has devolved in many ways and everyone should remember 13 year olds have access. Sadly and based on unfortunate negative behavior I do not use social media for official communication.”