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Rohnert Park mulls rules for using social media

By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Rohnert Park wants to be your friend. But it wants to stay tightly in control of the relationship.

To accomplish that, it wants to know, for example, who exactly can say exactly what? And what happens if a friend says something disagreeable? And how much is it going to cost to keep you as a friend?

No, Sonoma County’s third-largest city is not a candidate for counseling.

It’s trying to develop a policy governing how it uses social media such as Facebook and Twitter, increasingly staples of modern communication.

“If we really want to communicate with our citizens, we have to go where they are at, and where they are at is Facebook,” Information Systems Operations Manager David Rowley told the council Tuesday.

That path comes with some pitfalls, said Deputy Assistant City Clerk Terri Griffin, who with Rowley formulated a draft policy that the council reviewed.

“The use of social media does present some challenges in terms of policy and legally,” she said.

Those include free speech issues, particularly with regard to what controls the city can exert over things that people might post on the city’s yet-to-be-launched Facebook page.

The city policy would prohibit postings that contained profanity, sexual content, violated copyrights and business solicitations and allow for their removal. But posts could only be removed with the permission of the city manager.

What if someone starts making allegations or posting attacks against a city worker, Mayor Gina Belforte wanted to know.

“You can get a whole bullying thing going and I want to make sure we are protecting our city staff,” she said.

City Attorney Michelle Kenyon said if a post could be construed as threatening, it could certainly be removed. Left unclear was what might happen if postings didn’t reach that threshold.

Other issues included ensuring that the site complies with Brown Act regulations governing public meetings. The draft policy says council members and other officials “should refrain” from doing anything on Facebook or Twitter that might constitute engaging in city business.

That raised the eyebrows of Vice Mayor Jake Mackenzie, who is an avid user of both sites, regularly posting on his personal Facebook account and tweeting on Twitter.

“I’m going to be talking to the city attorney very soon about what I should or should not do,” he said.

Of relief, perhaps, to many is the provision that says Facebook posts and Twitter tweets “must avoid the use of jargon.”

Similarly optimistic was the statement by Rowley that because it is a government making use of social media, its posts will not be “verbose” or “drivel.”





8 Responses to “Rohnert Park mulls rules for using social media”

  1. paying attention says:

    “You can get a whole bullying thing going and I want to make sure we are protecting our city staff,” she said.

    So typical of our city council – out to protect themselves… no worries about their citizens.

    I have seen bullying BY the city council to citizens for speaking up!

    Verbally and in writing.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. bw says:

    I totally agree with Jason. Come on City Council… GET TO WORK on some real issues! Our tax dollars aren’t for figuring out the rules of Facebook.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  3. Jason Valez says:

    What part of freedom of speech does Rohnert Park not get? Forget about it. It shouldn’t matter if someone works for the city or not, as far as I know, they didn’t agree to give up their rights when they came to work for Rohnert Park.

    The government has too many controls as it is and this will be another way to censor people’s speech. Look at the crap they allow to go on this site. Let the readers be the judge of the content of what they read, I think we can sort things out on our own without the help of the politicians in Rohnert Park.

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  4. John Hudson says:

    Does anyone seriously think that the City of Rohnert Park is going to make a forum available that will fairly air controversial issues such as the sewer rate increase? If your answer is no, this is just going to be a propaganda outlet for the regime in city hall.

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 4

  5. Steve Klausner says:

    @Chris
    They may have to hire 3 people. This could be a 24/7 operation.

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  6. On To Truth & Justice says:

    There is an old saying which may apply here. “Becareful what you wish for.” Although I think Vice Mayor Jake “Pothole” Mackenzie would make a perfect fulltime censor for Rohnert Park there are concerns. He couldn’t continue to wear those rakish Hawaiian shirts that could be taken as bullying to the unsuspecting residents. And he might have to cut back on his outside board, committee and SMART meeting preparation.

    Oh well, on second thought, maybe they ought to continue to do what they have always done, try not to make news and stay out of the headlines.

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  7. WIll says:

    Waste of time and $ for a bankrupt city on the decline to even have a debate over.

    Not even worth the light bill…

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  8. Chris says:

    Well, my suggestion on negative and bullying comments against the staff of the city is to have a full time position to monitor and remove those post!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 9

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