A California town has decided not to have a Facebook page after being advised by its lawyer of the legal risks.
The legal issues include:
- May city officials remove vulgar posts and misinformation, or are the comments protected by the First Amendment?
- If a quorum of city council members comment on a Facebook post, is it a violation of the open meetings law? Such laws require advance notice of meetings and an opportunity to attend, blogger Robert Ambrogi writes at the Media Law blog.
- Is the city obligated to retain user comments under the state’s public records law?
- Could the city face liability for employee comments deemed offensive in the workplace?
Would you give the same advice to a Canadian municipality? Other public body? How would you answer those questions here? I know lawyers are paid to perceive risks, but also to evaluate them. It seems to me prima facie (oops! we don’t use Latin any more in the Ontario government [not that I write as an official of same] … as a matter of first impression) that these risks are not all that problematic and that they could be dealt with by appropriate published policies.
The lawyer did go on to say that he didn’t want his client to show up in the law reports as a test case, and one can have some sympathy for that point of view.