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Wednesday, August 22, 2012
HPD Sued Over 'Censorship' of Facebook Comments
By News Release @ 6:05 PM :: 13163 Views :: Honolulu County, First Amendment, Second Amendment

POLICE FAN PAGE BRINGS FIRST AMENDMENT LAWSUIT

News Release from Hawaii Defense Foundation August 21, 2012

Honolulu, Hawaii – Today in the Federal District Court of Hawaii, the Hawaii Defense Foundation has filed a lawsuit for violations of the First Amendment. The Defendants in this case are the City and County of Honolulu and a Honolulu Police Officer, Capt. Andrew Lum.

The complaint filed in the United States District Court by attorneys Richard Holcomb, Alan Beck, and Brian Brazier alleges that the Honolulu Police unlawfully administer their Facebook Fan page in violation of American citizen’s right to free speech. The complaint asserts that the Honolulu police arbitrarily moderate the page by deleting comments and banning users who post or make comments unfavorable to the department. The complaint further asserts that online speech is just as important as a citizen airing their grievance in a public park – just because the speech is virtual, doesn’t mean it is not protected.

“The First Amendment protects the right to free speech. Without question, social media has become a cornerstone for communication in the days of iPads, smart phones, and computers. In fact, online speech, within sites like Facebook, is utilized every day by citizens, businesses, and government agencies to communicate with the public at large.

The online world appears to truly be the go to medium for a citizen to share ideas and voice their opinions on a wide variety of topics. Across the globe, social media has been at the forefront of communication during natural disasters, revolts against tyranny, and civil protest; few methods of speech see more activity than Facebook and Twitter. We have already seen governments infringe online speech. Just look at countries like China or Egypt, who have at times prohibited these sites in order to silence their citizens into submission. Deleting comments and banning people from expressing their opinion is simply an act of oppression. However, we are not China, nor Egypt. American citizens have a voice, and these practices must stop.” says Chris Baker.

Hawaii Defense Foundation (www.TheHDF.org) is 501.c (3) charity in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Foundation serves the community by providing various services, such as: legal defense of civil rights, educational courses on firearm safety, self-defense training, and life saving techniques – such as first aid and CPR.

If you would like to show your support or are looking for additional information please contact the Foundation at (808) 664-1827 or info@TheHDF.org.

###

The filed documents can be viewed here: 

AP: Gun group sues Hawaii police over Facebook posts

First Amendment scholar David Hudson said the lawsuit, filed Tuesday, is the first of its kind. 

"It's really a cutting edge First Amendment issue," Hudson said. "The key legal question would be whether the police department created a public forum ... for private speech or whether the web page is government speech."

KITV: Group sues police over deleted Facebook messages

"It's similar to what the Nazis have done, China has done, and Egypt has done. They take social media outlets and they remove it from people and suppress their speech," said Chris Baker, founder of the Hawaii Defense Foundation.

"What they cited was for defamation. We don't think it's defamatory. Most of the posts removed were just critical of HPD or critical of policy regarding conceal and carry permits," said Richard Holcomb, the attorney for the plaintiffs.

In Facebook comments listed on the court documents, HPD said the posts were deleted due to "defamatory comments."

However, the plaintiffs maintain the department only deleted "unfavorable" posts.

"There aren't a lot of government Facebook sites. This is new territory. The federal court will face interesting challenges to try to figure out how technology and constitutional rights interface," said attorney Jeff Portnoy, who specializes in constitutional law. 

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