Warren considers Social Media policy

Policy comes about six weeks after former Board of Canvassers chairman resigned amid backlash over racially sensitive comment posted on Facebook

By Ted Hayes
Posted 10/12/20

Warren officials are considering the passage of a Social Media policy that would spell out what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable online behavior by appointed and elected board and town …

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Warren considers Social Media policy

Policy comes about six weeks after former Board of Canvassers chairman resigned amid backlash over racially sensitive comment posted on Facebook

Posted

Warren officials are considering the passage of a Social Media policy that would spell out what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable online behavior by appointed and elected board and town committee members.

The policy was expected to be discussed by the Warren Town Council Tuesday evening. It comes about six weeks after former Board of Canvassers chairman Vincent Calenda resigned his post amid backlash over comments he posted on Facebook, in which he used a racially disparaging term to describe former First Lady Michelle Obama.

The policy, introduced in draft form by Warren Town Manager Kate Michaud, does not restrict officials from posting online and using Facebooks, blogs, Twitter and other venues. However, it lays out a framework for how they should and should not use Social Media. The guidelines are broken into several categories of non-acceptable behavior, and among other things seek to restrict:

* Behaviors that "breach confidentiality by revealing protected information about the town, its citizens or its employees";

* Behaviors that "expose the town to liability for behavior that may be harassing, offensive or maliciously false";

* And behaviors that "interfere with productivity and/or ability to perform the duties and responsibilities as officials of the town."

"The town's image as a professional organization comprised of professionals is critical to maintaining the respect of its constituents," the draft policy reads. "Although the town acknowledges its officials have the First Amendment right to free speech, the right is not absolute and extends only to matters of public concern. Therefore, officials should exercise caution with respect to comments they post, particularly those concerning the town and the business of the town."

In particular, online postings on town media sites that violate the policy would include profane, obscene, violent or pornographic content or language, content that promotes discrimination on the basis of race, color, national orientation, sex, gender, physical and mental disabilities, sexual orientation, religion, age, family status, military status or source of income, defamatory or personal attacks, threats to any person or organization, contents in support of, or in opposition to, any political campaigns or ballot measures, solicitation of commerce, conduct that violates federal, state or local laws, rules or regulations, the encouragement of illegal activity, information that could compromise the safety of the public, content that violates copyright and other legal interests, and any other content deemed inappropriate by the town.

Any appointed officials caught violating the policy are subject to removal. Elected officials may be subject to a request for their resignation, public censure or reprimand, or could be subject to a recall petition.

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