Humboldt council adopts social media policy

HUMBOLDT — The Humboldt City Council approved a social media policy at Monday’s meeting.

Some recent posts on the city’s Facebook page have gotten personal or have been out of line, City Administrator Travis Goedken said.

“Without any policy in place the city does not have the ability to hide, delete, take any kind of content off the city Facebook page because it is technically considered a public record,” he said.

Coming up with a policy was one aspect of the problem. A more difficult decision was to allow comments or not, Goedken said.

“There’s definitely pros for allowing comments,” he said.

However, if vulgar or crude comments come up because posting is allowed, the city has an open records policy whereby if they delete the comments the city has to maintain who posted it, what time it was posted, and what the content was, Goedken said.

“If it is just there for information, and you don’t allow comment, people can do their own comment and share information among themselves,” Councilman Joel Goodell said.

“To me it seems like we are opening up the door for more issues than what it’s worth,” Councilman Jim Vermeer said.

The city is sharing information with the public. If people want to comment, let that happen among themselves, he said.

“The problem with Facebook is there is no personal contact. Somebody can say anything they want and there is no repercussions,” Goodell said. “A few ruined it for everybody.”

If comments are allowed and something is removed because staff felt it violated city policy, someone could argue it was not actually in violation of policy, Goedken said. If comments are not going to be allowed, negative comments are still going to happen but outside the city’s page, he said.

“If it is going to be up to the staff, you will just have litigation problems,” Goodell said.

If people have complaints, they can write a letter to the editor or come to city hall, Councilman Mike Worthington said.

The council approved the policy and decided not to allow public comments on the city’s three Facebook pages: the city page, aquatic center, and parks and recreation. People can still post reviews and those will be subjected to the city’s new social media policy.