Tuesday, January 05, 2016

SF DA: No Criteria About Our Twitter-Blocking Rules

Ambitious political animal and longtime law enforcement official George Gascon currently serves at the District Attorney of San Francisco, and his staff replied to my request for all public records about whom the DA blocks on his two City-funded Twitter accounts.

As you read in these excerpts from Gascon's assistant, I am one of two Twitter users blocked from reading or engaging with the @SFDAOffice account. Why is this so?

"We do not have a list detailing the reason why each respective account has been blocked, however, as per Government Code section 6252(e), our office has no duty to create such a list. As such, we have no records responsive to that request," according to the DA's office.

Blocking a San Francisco resident from reading the SF DA's tweets is a form of censorship and not having stated public reasons for blocking is the height of arrogance from a public servant.

I asked government transparency advocate Angela Greben, of the fantastic Discourse on Democracy and Twitter blog, where she tracks the accounts and blocking policies and practices of many elected and public officials, to weigh in on Gascon's reply to me:

"You ask an important question about Gascon's account.  Keep in mind he responded to my request back in August.  If you are sure you were blocked by Gascon during that time then I would really question the accuracy of his response to my public records request.

"You also raised another important question about blocking criteria.  When I bring up this issue on my blog I'm trying to explain to readers about the 14th Amendment right to due process.  Basically, if your government is going to deny you some rights you have the right to know what the charges are etc.  So, if a public official or agency is going to conduct business on a social media account then if they are going to block, then there needs to be a process for doing so.

"So, if Gascon is blocking you then, as a SF resident, you absolutely have a right to know why.  Again, the 14th Amendment says that your rights (ie access to public records) cannot be denied arbitrarily."

San Francisco needs its district attorney to develop some criteria about how he operates his City-funded social media outlets and for him to publicly explain his arbitrary blocking rules.

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