BLOCKED: Ironton Mayor Katrina Keith discusses Facebook messages
Recently, some people were upset after accounts were blocked on the City of Ironton’s Facebook page.
Ironton Mayor Katrina Keith explained that a company does the service for the Facebook page.
“The company said that we had a lot of fake accounts. And according to Facebook, they have no rights when it is a fake account,” Keith explained. “And so, Facebook took it on themselves to block what they felt were fake accounts.”
Keith said that since there is an upcoming election, people started posting vulgar and lewd comments on the city Facebook site.
“And the company blocked them. After I found that out, I went to our city solicitors and asked, “Are we even allowed to do this,” Keith said. “And in their opinion, because it is a government site, people have First Amendment rights to speak on our Facebook page.”
Keith said she agreed with their answer.
“I have spent too many years trying to be very transparent and opening up the mayor’s office so everyone can see what it going on.”
She said the city has gotten clean audits on their financial records by the state and city employees have all worked hard to be open and transparent.
“I didn’t want this incident with Facebook to jeopardize the work we have done to be transparent. I directed the company not to block anyone anymore,” Keith said, adding she told them to let Facebook block suspected fake accounts rather than the company doing it.
Keith said it was never a matter of something being posted that hurt her feelings.
“It was nothing like that at all,” she said, adding that they will continue to block vulgar and lewd comments. “But it’s my understanding that some of it was bigotry. As much as I hate that, people have a right to speak their First Amendment piece.”
She said they will continue to monitor the Facebook page and if it gets out of control, they might have to take it down.
“We did this in an effort to keep people abreast of what was going on,” Keith said. “We weren’t expecting it to get out of control and it just be people downgrading the city.”
The Ironton Tribune called the Ohio Attorney General’s Office about the legality of blocking people on social media sites and the response was that Ohio does not have a law against it.
“The Ohio Revised Code does not specifically address public officials blocking users on their social media accounts,” said Dominic Binkley, the public information officer of communications for the Office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.