ACLU of Indiana Challenges South Bend Social Media Ordinance

Affiliate: ACLU of Indiana
December 22, 2014 3:12 pm

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Indianapolis—A lawsuit filed today by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of South Bend Common Council President and 6th District Council member Oliver Davis challenges a recently-passed city ordinance that regulates both publicly controlled and privately maintained social media, Internet and electronic communications of council members, saying the ordinance violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Ordinance No. 10343-14, passed by the common council on Dec. 9 and signed by the mayor, places several extreme restrictions on council members’ use of Facebook, Twitter, email and other electronic communications, going so far as to attempt to control what others post on the members’ own social networking sites. The ordinance effectively stifles their First Amendment rights to communicate as members of the common council.

The ordinance lays out several restrictions of a highly subjective nature, saying the posts must be “informative,” “accurate,” “[not] misleading” and so on. But people use social media for amusement, to express opinions and to provoke action, and often post comments that are untrue—all of which is expression protected by the First Amendment.

“Elected officials retain their First Amendment rights,” said Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director. “The ordinance simply goes too far in trying to impinge on these rights.”

“I firmly believe as members of the South Bend Common Council, that in making our laws for the people of South Bend, we should be making laws that are in keeping with the U.S. Constitution,” said Council President Oliver Davis. “This is what all council members and our mayor swore to when we were elected.”

The case, Oliver Davis v. City of South Bend, Indiana, Cause No: 3:14-cv-2082, was filed on Dec. 22, 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division.

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