Indianapolis – The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit today on behalf of two women challenging the City of Beech Grove for its removal of Facebook postings from their sites and for blocking them from posting future comments, saying the city’s actions violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Plaintiffs in the case are two Beech Grove women, Kymberly Quick and Deborah Mays-Miller, who are members of Beech Grove Crime Watch and who posted comments related to crime awareness and prevention on Facebook pages for the City of Beech Grove and the Beech Grove Police Department.
On multiple occasions, the women’s posts and other Facebook users’ posts have been removed from these Facebook pages with no explanation. The posts, which sometimes posed questions to the police department, may have been perceived as critical of the city and police. In fact, the removed posts posed valid questions about the city’s crime reporting and police action and inaction related to the removal of political yard signs. But the city maintains a policy and practice of censoring Facebook comments based on the viewpoint of the user. In fact, the city has stated, “If you decide to make unpleasant comments we will delete you.”
“When a government entity opens up a space for public comment, it cannot regulate those comments based upon someone’s viewpoint,” said Jan Mensz, ACLU of Indiana staff attorney. “By giving itself unbridled discretion to determine what comments it deems acceptable, the City of Beech Grove has put all public speech on its social media sites at risk of further censorship.”
The lawsuit seeks to stop the City of Beech Grove from blocking plaintiffs from posting comments on its social media sites and to stop it from removing public comments based upon someone’s viewpoint. The case, Kymberly Quick and Deborah Mays-Miller v. City of Beech Grove, Case 1:16-cv-1706, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, on June 29, 2016.