Aug 22, 2012 4:01pm
HONOLULU (AP) — A gun advocacy charity has filed a lawsuit against the city over deleted posts on the Honolulu Police Department's Facebook page.
Hawaii Defense Foundation filed a 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.
"Individual members and supporters of Hawaii Defense Foundation continue to face an ongoing threat that their posts or commentary will be arbitrarily deleted and/or that they may be banned from the page," the lawsuit said.
As far as lawyers for the group know, the lawsuit is the first in the nation that deals with deleted social media posts, said one of their Honolulu attorneys, Richard Holcomb.
The lawsuit caught the attention of David Hudson, a First Amendment scholar with the First Amendment Center in Nashville, Tenn., who also said he isn't aware of any other legal battles over deleted Facebook posts. "It's really a cutting edge First Amendment issue," he said Wednesday. "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.
The lawsuit doesn't seek any money but that the department change its Facebook page policies and reinstate the deleted posts, Holcomb said. He said that the group initially formed out of the right to bear arms but has expanded to help Hawaii citizens with civil rights issues.