Alachua County has temporarily opened its Facebook page to allow comments from the public after prohibiting all comments two years ago.
The county said it plans to evaluate the comment section after 30 days and then decide how to move forward. The county started the trial on Nov. 6. In a post, the county said it hopes residents would use the comments as a positive tool for productive interaction.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Alachua County closed all comments. The page had seen an increase in misinformation, and communications director Mark Sexton said staff didn’t have time to always monitor the page. At the time, he said staff only removed comments that were “outwardly harassing.”
“Two years ago, after congressional testimony from a whistleblower, it was clear that the algorithms used by social media sites rewarded and encouraged hate speech, conflict, and toxic behavior; Alachua County decided not to cooperate with the forces that thrived through dividing people,” Alachua County’s post said.
Now, the county wants to see if its social media can be used for civil discourse. But, the county could shut off comments again after the trial.
“The law is clear: governments can turn comments off,” the post said.