Austell censors Facebook comments
by Rachel Gray
November 20, 2013 12:04 AM | 2526 views | 3 3 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
AUSTELL — Comments on the city’s Facebook page will be censored in accordance with new guidelines that were posted two days after the Nov. 5 election and a month before a council seat runoff.

Immediately after the election, the social forum received negative posts directed at Mayor Joe Jerkins, prompting Austell’s webmaster to take down those comments and create restrictions for future use.

Duane Demeritt, the city’s webmaster and operations manager for the Public Works Department, said the political comments prompted city officials to come up with a social media policy.

Demeritt said he discussed the new online policy with Councilwoman Virginia Reagan, who has represented Ward 4 for 16 years, and they agreed a policy was needed for the Austell Facebook page.

“We don’t like to see downgrading of anybody, especially our mayor, council and city employees,” Demeritt said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Jerkins said he was not aware of any concerns over the city’s Facebook page.

“I didn’t have anything to do with it,” Jerkins said about the new Facebook commenting policy.

Former councilman Randy Green, who will face a runoff election Dec. 3 for Austell’s Ward 3 council seat, said he had not heard anything specific about negative Facebook posts, but did defend Jerkins.

“He has been a good mayor,” Green said. “He is not the kind of mayor that is going to brag about anything.”

Ann Turner, who serves on the Board of Variance and Appeals and is running in the Ward 3 race, said she has no idea how to get on or use Facebook.

Turner added that she feels Jerkins is putting Austell’s welfare “above any individuals.”

Austell’s city clerk, Carolyn Duncan, said her office did not have any input about the policy and she has not seen approval of the guidelines on any council agendas.

Demeritt said he modeled the policy after the city of Marietta’s Facebook page. Both websites now have the same eight guidelines for the “Commenting and Privacy Policy.”

The policy page states, “The City of Austell encourages open communication with the public … to create an open discussion based on respectful dialogue and encourage helpful and useful comments.”

The policy states that comments should not contain abusive language, hate speech or offensive content, as well as personal or defamatory remarks about a person’s “thought processes or personality.”

“Comments should not endorse candidates or a particular stance on current ballot measures,” the guidelines state.

The city of Austell, through the webmaster, determines which comments are unacceptable and repeat violators can be banned from the Facebook page, the guidelines state.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Jason McLain
November 22, 2013
I am on here to just beg people who read this article and comments made by one city council member to attend the city council meetings on the first Monday of each month to see this mess in action. Also do not forget the pre-agenda meetings are on the last Monday of each month. I promise it will be worth your time.
Virginia Reagan
November 20, 2013
I believe I may be in that “older crowd in Austell” that Martin Standard referred to in the article “Three Vie in Austell runoff for Ward 3. What does he think he is a spring chicken? I don’t think so; back when I was in my middle 50 my grandchildren thought I was old, too.

Yes, I’m older, but if I didn’t think I could serve my constituents as well they deserved and attend the meetings I obligated myself to when I first qualified, other than being sick or going on vacation, I would never have committed to this job.

Standard stated we didn’t want to see development and changes. I don’t know where this came from council has never stood in the way of development. Changes? Does this mean that council will not obligate to taking Taxpayers money and cleaning up the businesses in town? This obligation belongs to the owners of the buildings.

Standard’s sly remarks about our Mayor “he likes being able to control every aspect of the city.” Whatever is on our agenda Mayor Jerkins knows every detail of that item; he explains what and why this would be good for the city or why we need whatever it may be. Maybe, if Standard felt pre-agenda/work session was necessary and showed up, he’s missed 10 meetings in less than 4 years he might understand why the Mayor is in control. He has also missed 8 council meetings for a total of 18 meetings in 4 years.

About the most hilarious remark he made about our Mayor “He will send Code Enforcement after you” I don’t know who he is trying to fool. Martin, his wife and Trudie Causey have wrote multi-complaints against our residents and business owners.

Although, he didn’t mention the Veterans Memorial Park I can’t understand why he didn’t vote to approve it. The Veterans Memorial Park will be a tribute of gratitude to the men and women that have fought and even given their lives for our freedom. I appreciate that and voted for the Veterans Memorial Park.

I just wanted to clarify the information Standard gave you in the article referred to above is very misleading.

Virginia Reagan; City of Austell Ward 4

770 948 7303

November 21, 2013
Virginia - Great comment! I hope you will run another four years. You have already given Austell a good many number of years and look forward to your serving another four years!
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