ACLU confronts Worth Co. Sheriff's Office about Facebook page

ACLU confronts Worth Co. Sheriff's Office about Facebook page
The ACLU of Georgia sent a demand letter (Source: WALB)
The Sheriff's Office is considering putting the page back up (Source: WALB)
The Sheriff's Office is considering putting the page back up (Source: WALB)

WORTH CO., GA (WALB) - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia is making a push to prevent elected officials and operators of government Facebook pages from blocking or deleting comments they disagree with.

The organization reported they received complaints from people who've been censored by elected officials and their pages, including the Worth County Sheriffs Office.

"Our democracy thrives when people can freely criticize their elected officials," ACLU Georgia Legal Director Sean Young said.

Young added that the ACLU did that by sending out demand letters.

"We told them that this is a clear First Amendment violation that you can't pick and choose who gets to say what they want on their Facebook page," Young said. "That's like having a town hall and saying, 'If you say anything mean about us, then we're going to kick you out forever.'"

Interim Worth County Sheriff Bobby Sapp said he heard about the social media issues when he took the office after Sheriff Jeff Hobby was suspended.

When it comes to Facebook, Sapp said he wasn't very familiar with it. So, he contacted the county attorney.

Sapp said most of the comments that were blocked contained vulgar language or were inappropriate, while documents from the ACLU state non-vulgar criticism was taken down as well.

Sapp said he also decided to take down the page until he could get a more clear picture as to how the laws worked in relation to social media.

"The fact that the sheriff's office has refrained from having this government page that masquerades as a personal fan page is certainly a good thing," Young said. "We would hope that in the spirit of open government, they would open up a page again."

That's something both the sheriff's office and the ACLU agreed upon. Sapp said he hopes to get legal clearance to get the office active on social media once again.

Sapp also said that he's not sure when the Facebook page will be back online. He said it was a valuable resource for getting information out to the public.

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