Are Some Local Governments Unintentionally Infringing on Your Freedom of Speech?
Are Local Governments Accidentally Violating The First Amendment on Social Media?
May 25, 2018
I recently came across a post on social media that linked to a YouTube video of a city council meeting for a local municipality. I scrolled down below the video to make a comment, and to my surprise, the comments were turned off. There was text that read “Comments are disabled for this video.” I decided that I would make sure this was the official channel for the municipality and not a channel made by someone else. As far as I could tell, this was, in fact, the official channel. The “About” section of their channel reads “This is the official YouTube channel for the City of Sulphur, Louisiana.” and a link from their official website also points to that channel.
A Recent Ruling and a Court Case on the Issue
I didn’t really think much of it at first, then I remembered recently hearing in the news that President Trump is no longer allowed to block comments on his social media accounts due to a previous court ruling. After checking, I found that this was in part due to a ruling made by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Davison v. Loudoun County Board of Supervisors that says governments and officials cannot prevent citizens from commenting on their social media accounts. To summarize, it read:
“Defendant’s actions, while relatively inconsequential as a practical matter, did in fact violate Plaintiff’s right of free speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, § 12 of the Constitution of Virginia.”
YouTube is currently the second largest search engine, second only to their parent company Google, and also considered to be a social media platform in addition to hosting videos.
More Than One, but Not All
I also found that the YouTube channel titled “CityofLakeCharles” has comments turned off on videos. Their about section does not say it is the official YouTube channel though. It instead reads “Videos of various events around the city as well as interviews with city officials.”
I did find a local government channel that does leave comments open. That was the YouTube channel that belongs to the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury.
Now I don’t believe that the city governments and the administrators of the YouTube channels did this to intentionally infringe upon citizens’ freedom of speech. It is common for channels to turn off comments for convenience and to prevent spam. There may also be a legal loophole that I am not aware of that allows the comments to be turned off.
Links to the three YouTube channels:
What are your thoughts about some local governments disabling comments?
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