Should politicians be allowed to block people on social media?

Question stems from feud in Jacksonville City Council over Twitter feed

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While politicians are often seen fighting over things such as budgets, taxes and various political stands, there's now a fight in the Jacksonville City Council about a new issue: social media.

On Tuesday, City Council members will hear a resolution, asking the state to weigh in on the issue of whether politicians should be able to block others on social media. 

The question stems from a social media war, of sorts, between two Jacksonville City Council members. City Council President Aaron Bowman and Councilman Garrett Dennis are at odds over a Twitter feed. Bowman blocked Dennis from viewing his Twitter feed because of comments Dennis made during the holidays.

As a result of the feud, Dennis filed the resolution, asking for the state attorney general to give an opinion about whether a public official violates the freedom of speech clause of the Florida Constitution when public officials restrict access to their personal social media accounts.

READ: Resolution requesting an attorney general opinion

News4Jax asked Dennis whether him being blocked by Bowman is the reason behind the resolution.

"It’s not about me being blocked by the Council president, but it’s about transparency and can elected officials block anyone from our social media," Dennis said.

City Councilman Garrett Dennis and City Council President Aaron Bowman
City Councilman Garrett Dennis and City Council President Aaron Bowman

But Bowman had an entirely different spin.

"Is he sitting on City Council or student council?" Bowman questioned.

Bowman told News4Jax he's more worried about working on pressing issues with the city, crime and other concerns, and the resolution is just wasting time.

"He has filed legislation to go to the state to ask (the attorney general) if he can continue to put juvenile comments about me on Twitter," Bowman said. "So I’m sure we will look at it and see where it goes."

But Dennis said it's important since so much information now comes out on social media, and said for government officials to block anyone is wrong. 

"Can we block citizens viewing our social media -- whether it's Twitter or Facebook? And there were some concerns I received from constituents," Dennis said. 

When asked about that, Bowman said he believes he should have the right to block whoever he wants.

"I do because you'll see I do a lot of personal stuff on there. If I have anything that has to do with city business, I usually use my Facebook page for that," he said. 

The social media battle was not only between Dennis and Bowman. News4Jax also learned Dennis blocked members of the mayor's staff from his account. But Dennis said he later removed that block when he realized it was wrong.

When News4Jax tried contacting city lawyers on Friday, but they could not be reached for comment. 

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