WASHINGTON — Online users took to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s Facebook page to leave dissenting comments about President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban, urging the governor to condemn the executive order. But some of these comments were then deleted from the page, sparking criticism of the governor’s social media actions.
In addition to the removal of some comments, the governor’s office confirms 450 people have been banned from commenting on the Facebook page since the governor took office.
The Maryland Democratic Party announced this week that it is looking into the comment removals and has filed for the expedited release of emails, faxes and memos pertaining to the governor’s social media accounts.
“Governor Hogan owes Marylanders answers on whether it is policy to censor and ban constituents on his official social media accounts just because they don’t share his views,” said Chuck Conner, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, in a press release.
Hannah Marr, spokeswoman for the governor, said the office encourages all manner of thoughtful political discourse and will continue to do so, saying, “We have an obligation to over 140,000 people who follow the governor’s page to not tolerate vulgar, incendiary speech or coordinated spam attacks from outside political groups.”
Marr said it’s believed political operatives were behind some of the comments that were removed.
As the debate continues on whether or not comments on a public page should be censored or removed, there are no rules or regulations preventing the practice.
“The rules are not explicit as to whether there are legal issues or something else,” said Betsy Sigman of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.
Sigman said it’s accepted that most politicians manage comments on their public pages as they try to present the best image that they can on social media. That said, Sigman said concerns about whether or not comments on social media sites should be treated as public records have come up before and could one day end up in the courts.