Tag Archives: Free Speech

Public Officials Cannot Block Your Comments on Their Facebook Page

Just you know, your comments cannot be deleted or blocked on a public official’s page. It’s probably Facebook that is used most frequently by politicians and bureaucrats.

If you feel that you’re likely to be censored by a public official or page, contribute your comments and take a screenshot. This way, if your comments disappear, there is proof.

First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I’m sharing the entire report from the ACLU for easy reading.

By Vera Eidelman, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology ProjectJANUARY 9, 2019 | 12:00 PM

One of the core purposes of the First Amendment is to allow people, regardless of their views, to hold the government accountable through expression. So, if your elected representative has an official Facebook page where she invites comments, can she block you from commenting because you criticize her work?

According to a federal appeals court, the answer is a resounding no.

On Monday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the interactive portion of a public official’s Facebook page is a “public forum,” so an official cannot block people from it because of the opinions they hold.

The case arose after the chair of a local board of supervisors in Virginia, Phyllis Randall, briefly blocked a critic from her official Facebook page and deleted a comment he made about her colleagues’ management of public funds.

The critic, Brian Davison, represented by the Knight First Amendment Institute, filed a lawsuit arguing that Randall had violated his First Amendment rights by removing him from a public forum — space the government makes available for people’s expressive activity — because she disagreed with his views. Randall countered that she has the authority to control the page’s content — including the comments. (President Trump has used some of the same arguments in a lawsuit against him for blocking people on Twitter.)  

We filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Davison, arguing that officials cannot prevent people from joining in a public conversation because of their viewpoints,  and the three-judge appeals court panel agreed.

It is important to remember that people who hold public office can wear two hats: Sometimes, they act as private individuals, and other times they are government actors. While they maintain their First Amendment rights when acting as private individuals, they are subject to the limits the First Amendment places on the government whenever they’re doing government work.

As the court rightly held, that includes any time that they’re controlling a Facebook page they maintain in their official roles. Specifically, the court recognized that when a public official uses a Facebook page as a tool of governance — that is, when she uses it to inform the public about her government work, solicits input on policy issues through the page, and swathes it “in the trappings of her office” — she is controlling the page as a government actor.

And if she opens that page to public comment, the interactive space of the Facebook page constitutes a public forum. The fact that the page exists on a website owned by a private company doesn’t change that.

That means that, when a public official blocks critics from the page because of their viewpoints, she violates the Constitution. Indeed, the right to criticize the government is at the heart of the First Amendment. The court specifically recognized blocking as infringing on that right, noting that blocking someone in order to silence criticism of government work is itself evidence of government action.

The Fourth Circuit is the first appellate court to opine on this issue, and its order controls public officials and agencies in Virginia and nearby states. Elsewhere around the country, public officials have also stopped censoring critics on their social media pages thanks to the work of the ACLU.

These cases help to ensure that our First Amendment rights remain protected as our democracy increasingly moves online. The fact that a public official disagrees with you on an issue doesn’t mean she can silence you. Indeed, it means the opposite — and that holds true whether you’re speaking out in a public park, at a town hall meeting, or on a Facebook page. “

Needless to say, you have the responsibility not to use threats or violence on their page. That’s not covered under Free Speech.

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TESLA CEO Elon Musk’s April Fool’s Tweet

Apparently Elon Musk made good on his outrage against the lack of Free Speech with Twitter. The US Securities and Exchange Commission reported Musk’s purchase of 73,486,938 shares of Twitter valued at $2.89 billion based on April 1, 2022 Friday’s closing price.

The following tweet was posted after Elon Musk became Twitter’s largest shareholder.

On March 24, 2022, Musk tweeted his question below. It’s a great question that many have been asking. But it takes a larger-than-life person like Elon Musk with 80 million followers to bring it to the collective consciousness.

The marginalization of Free Speech and Free Press has been collectively going downhill. It used to be that journalism and reporting was primarily about bringing the news in print and through radio/TV to the public. We now have too many talking heads and posers.

Now, there are so many options and venues. The internet obviously has opened up new worlds of communications. In the 1970s, when 24/7 cable news was start, there was a group of forward-thinking and public good minded citizens who fought for Free Press and Free Speech. The ideals and intent of the Public, Education, and Governmental (PEG) Access Channels and support services have since been incrementally undermined, neglected, and pushed out by many new communications platforms.

Additionally, many relatively big or small newspapers and communication outfits have been out-paced and out-spent and forced to close. Others have to resort to “pay wall” where unfortunately only those can can afford to pay can read.

There are benefactors who impose and insist on their own idealogy relating to their so-called Free Press and Free Speech forums and businesses. There is censorship by editors on which public comments and accepted and which are not. Many comments have no “threats” or “bullying” or other anti-social behavior. The censored comments are simply under the whims of the editor or publisher’s ideology.

Enter the social media platforms like Facebook, Tweeter, Instagram and Tick-Tock and there goes the opportunity for the general public to read and digest and analyze in details of a good printed report.

Tweeter has now increased its Tweet text content of a Tweet up to 280 characters or Unicode glyphs. It used to be 140 words. That at least increased the attention span a little.

In a way, it forces the tweet to be concise and succinct. In other ways, there are inherent limits to further delving into careful reading or sufficient information.

Still, it’s nice to see Elon Musk take a stand for Free Speech and be able to do something about it. Twitter had taken to censorship of information. A public forum must be open to ALL forms of idealogy. Diversity of thoughts and information enhance better results in the end.

Let the people use their brains, analyze, and decide for themselves.

Democracy can only function and thrive when there’s Free Speech and Free Press. It’s that fundamental and basic.

While we’re at this, remember we can all be like Elon Musk in our own ways and own spaces. Speak up for Free Speech and Free Press where you live. Write a blog. Host a public community radio or television or Pod.

If you see something that is not right in the Public Square, speak up. Object. Raise your concerns. Hold your own water. Stand your ground.

That’s the only way the Free Speech and Free Press can survive and thrive.

Choon James: Status for SB 1357 to fine motorists with flags.

SECTION 1. The legislature finds that flags flown from vehicles being operated or moved on streets cause distractions and create unsafe driving conditions. The purpose of this Act is to discourage unsafe practices.

This Bill was DEFERRED to Tuesday February 8, 2022 for the 3:05PM AGENDA. SB 1357 to prohibit flags display on vehicles on roads, etc. SCROLL TO 1:30 to hear the status: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_Puas70MFA

We can’t have government incrementally shutting down Free Speech and Civic Participation. Although the State Capitol is one of the most ventilated buildings in Honolulu, it’s still closed to the public. The public cannot hold signs inside its meeting places. And now this shutting down of flags flying.

The Senate Transportation Committee Chair Chris Lee said yesterday that the intent of Bill 1357 was not to infringe on First Amendment Rights. The State Department of Transportation (DOT) submitted an unsigned testimony that it had received “numerous complaints and inquiries from the public about flags and other materials that impair the visibility of other drivers on the road. As such, we support all efforts to eliminate these unnecessary distractions.”

I wonder if DOT also received complaints and enquires about other traffic concerns.

Bill 1357 is not compelling enough except to shut down displays of discontent and public dissension. We must protect Free Speech at all costs.

There are lots of distractions and unsafe driving conditions on the road – Loose dogs. Drunk driving. Driving in opposite directions. Tourist trolleys. Huge vehicles blocking our view planes. Sign Waving. Display of huge banners on buildings along roads and so on.

The item that is most distracting and affecting road safety is the POTHOLES!!

We’re forced to keep our eyes down on the road to avoid the potholes which are EVERYWHERE. Our tires blow out. Cars swerve to try to miss the potholes on busy streets. The underbelly of the vehicles are damaged. POTHOLES are the most dangerous and most distracting.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent but our roads have become more and more dangerous. We would like the Hawaii Senate to focus on this huge distraction. It’s time to require a warranty on the road roadwork and so on to promote road safety.

It’s ridiculous that every time it rains, more potholes appear. There is no reason why the state cannot expect basic workmanship for the hundreds of millions that are spent annually.

Please terminate SB 1357 – It’s treacherous to free speech and an open democracy. Focus on the real traffic safety and driving conditions.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell on a Rampage

Woman Criticizes Honolulu’s Government, Has Her Protest Signs Bulldozed

Nick SibillaNick Sibilla, Contributor   

How people respond to criticism can reveal a lot about their character.  Some might try to debate or reason with those they disagree with.  Others prefer to ignore critics.  City officials in Honolulu take a different approach: They use a bulldozer.

Choon James is a successful real estate broker with over two decades of experience in Hawaii.  But the city of Honolulu is seeking to seize property she’s owned for almost a decade to build what she calls a “super-sized” fire station in rural Hauula.

Since January 2010, she has put up signs to protest Honolulu’s use of eminent domain.  These signs declare “Eminent Domain Abuse: Who’s Next?” and “YouTube Eminent Domain Abuse—Hawaii.”  For more than three years these signs have been up without any incident.

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But now the city is showing a callous disregard for Choon’s freedom of speech.  Back in May, Honolulu seized two of her eminent domain protest signs.  Without her consent, city employees went onto the property and seized and impounded her signs before damaging them. Even worse, the city slapped her with a notice for trespassing, for property she is trying to defend in court.

After these signs were torn down, Choon placed three more signs there.  These lasted just a few months before the city once again seized the signs.  This time, Honolulu was much more dramatic.  On October 18, city workers, backed by police officers, squad cars and a bulldozer, came by and literally bulldozed those protest signs.

The city’s actions show a shameful lack of respect for the First and Fourth Amendments.  Citizens have a right to protest government actions.  The First Amendment was enacted precisely to protect citizens who criticize the government from retaliation.  Lawsuits challenging Honolulu’s unreasonable seizures and chilling attacks on free speech are now pending in federal court.

Unfortunately, Honolulu is not alone in trying to silence critics who question eminent domain.  The Institute for Justice has represented citizens in St. Louis, Mo., Norfolk, Va., Tennessee, and Texas who protested abusive property seizures and faced censorship.  Out of these four cases, IJ successfully defended free speech in three cases, while the fourth is currently in litigation.

After 24 of his buildings were taken by St. Louis, Jim Roos painted a giant mural on a building he owned advocating “End Eminent Domain Abuse.”  But St. Louis labeled the mural an “illegal sign” and wanted to force Jim to remove the sign (and stifle his right to protest) or face code violations.  He teamed up with the Institute for Justice and sued the city.  In a major win for the First Amendment, in July 2011, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Jim and allowed the mural to stay up.

In a similar vein, IJ has defended grassroots activists from a frivolous defamation lawsuit and protected an investigative journalist’s right to free speech from a vindictive private developer.

More recently, the Institute for Justice is suing the city of Norfolk for trying to squash a small business owner’s eminent domain protest sign.  The Central Radio Company, a repair shop, has been in Norfolk for almost eight decades.  But Norfolk had plans to seize the property with eminent domain for a private redevelopment project.

To protest, owner Bob Wilson displayed a huge banner on-site.  The city responded by telling Bob he had to take down the sign or face fines of up to $1,000 per day.  Fortunately, the Virginia Supreme Court unanimously struck down the city’s attempt to seize Bob’s land; his free speech case is still infederal court.

As the cases make clear, courts routinely respect Americans’ First Amendment rights.  Honolulu should do the same.

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Postscript: Mayor Kirk Caldwell also shut down the owner’s business with Reynolds Recycling on October 21, 2013. Public push back forced the Mayor to cut a deal with Reynolds to return to the adjacent city Lot 64 on December 20, 2013. The Caldwell Administration did not disclose that it is on a month-to-month lease. Should the Mayor gets permission from the courts to condemn, the last two commercial zone lots will be decimated and recycling business  gone.
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The only valid reason for Mayor Kirk Caldwell to shove this extra expensive fire station onto this small rural community is he owes a plum building contract to a donor!  The Mayor  wants to build a huge Kapolei City station in the small rural town of Hauula.
The Mayor can be contacted at mayor@honolulu.gov    808 768-4141
City Council Chair Ernie Martin  at emartin@honolulu.gov   808 768-5002
Choon James at ChoonJamesHawaii@gmail.com   808 293 9111

Hauula Fire Station Relocation Controversy Drives Honolulu Mayor to Illegally Shut Down Reynolds Recycling Center

 

Hawaii Eminent Domain Abuse – Honolulu Mayor Goes Amok on Free Speech and Private Property Rights!

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Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell impounded free speech signs

on private property on October 18, 2013, again!

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Upon taking office, he went on the rampage by implementing

first raid of the signs on May 29, 2013. There is a federal lawsuit  against the city pending.

PRIVATE  fee owners own this commercial lot. The eminent domain

trial is set for March 2014.  Mayor Caldwell’s threats and intimidation are grossly premature and illegal.

On October 21, 2013, the Mayor rampaged further by posting signs on the private property to threaten Reynolds Recycling into closure. The threatening sign was posted in the middle of the entry way to the business. The problem is the city does not own this lot!

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The city owns the adjacent lot below but it has no posted signs of any kind at all. Maybe after the Mayor has been exposed, he’ll post a similar sign on this city-owned lot to appear even-handed. But it’s too late. His browbeating and abusing the office of the Mayor’s office are too evident.

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Does Hau’ula need a recycling center?

What do you think of the Mayor’s illegal activities?

808 768-4141  mayor@honolulu.gov  Honolulu Mayor

808 768-5002 emartin@honolulu.gov  City Councilman

 

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Choon James: Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s assaults on free speech rights expand to Hau’ula