Feb 25, 2019


To the editor:

Is Mayor Kim Driscoll violating the First Amendment rights of Salem residents? If she is blocking residents from her Facebook page, then according to the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, she is.

The recent 4th Circuit opinion joins others in affirming that a public official’s social-media page, when used in an official capacity — as the mayor’s is — becomes in effect “the modern public square.” An official cannot, therefore, silence speech or speakers they don’t like.

I have heard from a number of residents that the mayor has in fact “blocked” them (prevented them from seeing or interacting with her official page) and have seen evidence of this. This isn’t simply a matter of silencing bad actors. You can find comments from those supportive of the mayor on her page engaging in vitriolic, even discriminatory speech, and yet they remain unblocked. Those whom she apparently blocks are critics.

Free Speech makes for a rough-and-tumble atmosphere, but it also punctures fallacious arguments, supplies information and vents frustration.

We see many forums in Salem these days which purport to welcome public input yet are heavily stage-managed to secure a predetermined outcome — in my opinion. Social media should not be another such forum.

The mayor should be welcoming voices, not silencing them.

Justin Whittier