By Meghan Kliewer
Santa Ana Police Department has 24 blocked and 100 muted accounts on its Twitter, and that is wrong because citizens cannot interact with the city agency.
Refusing exposure to criticism from the public and denying access is an infringement of the First Amendment. Muting accounts threatens the relationship between police officials and the public and is unprofessional. The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the protection of speech, which extends to the Internet.
If the public is offered a medium to communicate with the government through advanced technology, it should be able to ask for redress without restriction. People cannot do so if they are blocked.
Since the SAPD uses its Twitter account to communicate with the people it serves and protects, blocking restricts the flow of vital information to and from the public.
Most of the blocked accounts’ tweets involved criticism of the SAPD officers’ inappropriate behavior during the Sky High Holistic marijuana dispensary raid. The video footage of the raid went viral in June.
Muted accounts can still view the SAPD’s tweets and communicate by direct messages, but the public messages to the department are not visible.
If the public cannot express its opinions or criticism to the police without being blocked or muted, trust in the department to listen and respond online and offline, whether it concerns conduct or public safety, is lost.
Rather than blocking and muting accounts, the SAPD should respond to account holders privately, moving the conversation out of the public eye but still ensuring their concerns are heard.
If for any reason accounts must be restricted, they should be provided a full disclosure of the police department’s policy and detailed reasons why the account was blocked or muted. Personal feelings of individual officers and the department should not get in the way of the purpose of the department.
Government accounts on social media should not be allowed to block or restrict access to them from the public.
The people of Santa Ana should propose an ordinance with a voter initiative petition to restrict the SAPD Twitter account from blocking and muting.