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Falls sets guidelines for public posts on social media page

NEWTON FALLS — Just as guidelines are in place for speaking at a village council meeting, those who post on the village’s Facebook page also are being asked to follow a code of conduct that prohibits personal attacks and profanity.

Village council on Monday voted 3-1 with one abstention on a resolution to set a code of conduct for the social media postings effective immediately.

Council members Tarry Alberini, Sandra Breymaier and Adam Zimmerman voted in favor of setting the code of conduct, while Councilman John Baryak voted against and Councilman Lyle Waddell abstained.

Officials said the same standards of conduct that are in place for speaking at council meetings also will apply to postings on Facebook. Foul, abusive, profane and obscene language is prohibited regardless of the source. Off-topics postings also may be deleted.

Accusations or suggestions of impropriety or illegal conduct and / or comments or attacks of a personal nature by those on social media against members of council or other people are prohibited.

The Facebook page will be administered by the village clerk, and anyone who doesn’t follow guidelines will be dismissed.

Baryak said he wanted to make a revision to the wording of the resolution and is concerned about censoring or blocking peoples’ comments.

He said he agrees foul language and disparaging comments should not be allowed at meetings or on Facebook.

But, he said, “We can’t stifle someone’s opinion on something. The taxpayers should be allowed to say what they want.” Baryak said comments against officials come with the territory.

Law Director A. Joseph Fritz said the guidelines do not block people from making comments but require they follow the code of conduct required of all people.

“We are not blocking anyone, but making sure people follow the guidelines and do not put content that is not allowed on our website. People can comment as long as they don’t violate the content rules and use abusive language and personal attacks. This is our city’s web page,” he said.

“When people make comments that hurt someone’s professional reputation and their business, there can be repercussions for that,” Fritz warned.

Alberini said some accusations and suggestions against officials are not appropriate — calling people “liars” and “corrupt” and tearing people down.

“Many of us get attacked on a daily basis on Facebook, but making accusations and suggestions of impropriety are not to be tolerated. People have the right to disagree with council. But when people attack our businesses and families that crosses the line,” Alberini said.

“Civility must be first. People can make comments but they must be civil, just as we ask when they speak at a meeting. The same rules that govern council meetings as far as language, name-calling and slandering are not permitted on Facebook. This is not limiting anyone’s free speech of posting their opinions,” Zimmerman said.

Mayor Ken Kline said the rules are an extension of what is expected at council meetings.

“People have a right to disagree in an appropriate way as long as they don’t use abusive language and make personal attacks against people,” Kline said.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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