Alachua County allows social media comments in 30-day trial

Social media Facebook Twitter comments engagement

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.” 

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“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. 

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“The law is clear: governments can turn comments off,” the post said.

I believe the original intent of the idea that governments “can turn comments off” relates specifically to those forums that are solely operated by those governments. By making a definitive statement like this, out of context, it usurps the authority granted to the government so that bureaucrats that disagree with something may wield, without true authority, the power to stop the speech that is protected by the constitutions that are designed to limit those bureaucrats.

Maybe this quote was only a portion of the statement made? Otherwise, it has the appearance of subverting the law as it was intended.