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Lawsuit over HPD Facebook comments could set legal precedent

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 12:46 p.m. HST, Aug 22, 2012

A lawsuit against the Honoulu Police Department over deleted posts on the department’s Facebook page could set a legal precedent, a First Amendment scholar told the Associated Press.

“It’s really a cutting edge First Amendment issue,”said David Hudson, a First Amendment scholar with the First Amendment Center in Nashville, Tenn. “The key legal question would be whether the police department created a public forum ... for private speech or whether the web page is government speech.”

If it’s determined to be government speech, the government has the right to control what speech it wants to support, he said. 

Hudson and attorneys for the plaintiffs say the lawsuit appears to be the first in the nation that deals with deleted social media posts.

A gun advocacy group, the Hawaii Defense Foundation filed the federal lawsuit Tuesday for violations of the First Amendment, claiming Honolulu police arbitrarily delete posts and ban those who make comments that are unfavorable to the department on the social media site. 

The lawsuit argues that the department’s Facebook page was created to be “a forum open to the public,” and that removing comments violates freedom of speech. The plaintiffs are the group’s president, Christopher Baker, and Derek Scammon, the group’s assistant director. Numerous comments they posted were removed without explanation, the lawsuit said, and both men were later banned from the page.

Capt. Andrew Lum is named a defendant because he manages and maintains the site. “The HPD cannot comment on details regarding the pending lawsuit,” he said in a statement.  “Guidelines are posted on the HPD Facebook site.” 

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Shh wrote:
It's a Facebook page nonetheless so I think HPD has the right to delete any post or comment they want.
on August 22,2012 | 01:00PM
peanutgallery wrote:
Maybe the public should be asking themselves; "what was posted"? What could these guys have said that caused HPD so much angst? The reality is we'll have to wait for a judge to decide, but once again, city employees have us defending them in court.
on August 23,2012 | 03:36AM
ResponsibleCitizen wrote:
Tax payer funded pages need to tred lightly on post deletions. If the posts where spam or utterly profane then, yes, delete. However HDF's mission is to protect the rights of Hawaii's citizens, and they support HPD's misson, keep Hawaii's citizens safe from crime and criminals.
on August 23,2012 | 06:25AM
mr808surfguy wrote:
What funds are use for facebook. It is a free page and who cares if they deleted a post. Stop crying over spilled milk
on August 23,2012 | 06:59AM
peanutgallery wrote:
We, " the folks" pay their salaries. When they are working FB inuniform, it's on our dime. Wake-up, or find a 12-step. Your drinking too much Kool-Aid
on August 23,2012 | 08:35AM
mr808surfguy wrote:
Here is an ideal... you wake up and get off of HPD back! We have bigger fish to fry and this isn;t one of them. I am so sick and tired of all the cry babies here in Hawaii.
on August 23,2012 | 09:38AM
st1d wrote:
the hpd facebook page may be a forum open to the public. but, that doesn't mean that the host must allow posters who spam the site or violate the host's terms of service and use guidelines for the site.
other government agencies who maintain facebook pages will probably join this debate as friends of the court.
on August 22,2012 | 01:00PM
peanutgallery wrote:
NYPD recently brought charges against 17 officers for making racist rants on their FB page. The chief said they were charged with "conduct prejudicial to the good order of the police department." We live in a different time with social media. Perhpas a more pressing question is; what did these guys post that was so offensive to HPD? We already know HPD will close ranks to defend their own.
on August 23,2012 | 03:52AM
dylanh724 wrote:
I'm with HPD on this one -- Any comments you say on a public forum have the right to be moderated. Yea, you have the right to say anything you want, but at the same time, HPD has the right to delete comments for any reason they want. It's a Facebook, which is designed to be informal. If you have something on your mind, you can post on your own wall/status as often as you want and no one can force you delete it; THAT is freedom of speech. However, posting on someone else's wall, you have the freedom to do so, but the owner also has the freedom to moderate to their heart's content for any reason or no reason at all. I could delete a post on my wall because they smell IRL and I still wouldn't be violating anything whether it's an agency or not. I've been fighting a Facebook defamation case for over a year now, and I am winning. I am not a lawyer, but I definitely know what I'm talking about after my mass research.
on August 22,2012 | 01:09PM
Rickyboy wrote:
on August 22,2012 | 03:07PM
Anonymous wrote:
Talk about another frivilous lawsuit. Anyone who creates a Facebook page or any forum can set any rules they want and moderate as they see fit.
on August 22,2012 | 03:32PM
ResponsibleCitizen wrote:
Not if the page is paid for and maintained with tax dollars.
on August 23,2012 | 05:55AM
hanoz808 wrote:
so is this saying that i can be sued if i delete someones comment? ridiculous!
on August 22,2012 | 03:42PM
PCTekHI wrote:
if Star Advertiser deletes this *(*()#$)(*#()$*#) comment, i can sue them for 1 million dollars ! :þ
on August 22,2012 | 05:25PM
ResponsibleCitizen wrote:
The Plaintiffs are not after any monitary compensation, All they want is the right to freely express their ideas, without undue, unjust, and arbitrary censorship.
on August 23,2012 | 06:08AM
elijahhawaii3 wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on August 22,2012 | 05:28PM
ResponsibleCitizen wrote:
Posts were not defamitory or derogatory. Just a difference in political opinion.
on August 23,2012 | 05:57AM
ResponsibleCitizen wrote:
Nope, you can do what ever you want to YOUR facebook page. This is a taxpayer funded page.
on August 23,2012 | 06:00AM
TigerEye wrote:
Really? How much does it cost? Before you tell me to look it up, t's your assertion so it's on you to cite your source.
on August 23,2012 | 07:17AM
HAJAA1 wrote:
People need lives
on August 22,2012 | 03:54PM
Kaleo744 wrote:
Too much time on their hands.
on August 22,2012 | 11:25PM
localguy wrote:
HPD is funded through tax payer's dollars. HPD works for the tax payers. Anything HPD does is funded by tax payers, meaning it belongs to taxpayers, not HPD. Sad to say HPD officers paid by taxpayers illegally censored a tax payer funded facebook page, against the free speech laws. Now HPD has broken the law, needs to be held accountable. No one is above the law. HPD needs to realize this, do what is right. Sad to see HPD fail again,. Come on HPD, we expect better of you. Why do you willfully fail us?
on August 23,2012 | 03:05AM
leoscott wrote:
These people need to get a life rather then wasting time on frivilous lawsuits! I hope they are reading these post! Get A Life!
on August 23,2012 | 05:43AM
ResponsibleCitizen wrote:
Comments that were deleted questions state/city/police authority to arbitrarily curb citizens rights. The info is out there, look it up.
on August 23,2012 | 05:53AM
peanutgallery wrote:
How about a link for those technically challenged. Thanks.
on August 23,2012 | 08:37AM
AhiPoke wrote:
Interesting. The SA has not posted my comments several times even though I'm very careful to not use profanity or say anything obscene. I find it especially interesting because a newspaper should be a defender of free speech.
on August 23,2012 | 08:53AM
Aquarius1 wrote:
Really, now. There's got to be more to life than filing such a a lawsuit.
on August 23,2012 | 10:47AM
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