BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland has reached a settlement with the state Board of Public Works in the case against Maryland Governor Larry Hogan for his alleged Facebook censorship.
As part of the settlement, there will be a new social media policy for Hogan’s Facebook page and other social media pages.
A spokesperson for the governor’s office released the following statement:
“We are pleased that the ACLU has decided to drop this frivolous and politically motivated lawsuit and reach a settlement with the state. Ultimately, it was much better for Maryland taxpayers to resolve this, than to continue wasting everyone’s time and resources in court.”
According to the ACLU, the social media policy includes the following:
- Mandates that the Governor will not discriminate based on viewpoint, and will permit all commentary on his Facebook page on any past topic he has covered;
- Also calls for the creation of a second “Constituent Message Page” as an additional social media forum with and among users and the Governor about any topic related to governmental concerns – even topics Governor Hogan has not addressed in the past;
- Creates a process to contest restriction of access to the Governor’s social media platforms.
- Governs all of Governor Hogan’s social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Youtube.
The fight started back in August when people trying to connect with Hogan on Facebook claimed they were being censored because of opposing views on his policies and opinions.
At the time, Hogan said, “Many of the people on there are putting hateful, rude, profane death threats, racists comments and sometimes just repetitively spamming.”
The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit challenging what it called censorship on Hogan’s part.
After months of back and forth, both sides have reached a compromise.
“We think it’s very important to have some parameters to govern the relationship between elected officials and their constituents online,” said Meredith Curtis-Goode with the ACLU Maryland.
Under the terms, the governor cannot discriminate comments based on views.
There will also be a second Facebook page “dedicated to providing a public forum where constituents can raise a host of issues for the governor’s attention,” as well as an appeals process for those who feel they were wrongfully blocked, or had their comments improperly deleted.
Curtis-Goode calls it a big step for First Amendment rights.
“It really set a model for how other elected officials across the country can handle these relationships differently online,” she said.