Group sues police over deleted Facebook messages

Published On: Aug 30 2012 10:48:07 AM HST   Updated On: Aug 23 2012 07:51:11 AM HST

A gun advocacy group is suing the Honolulu Police Department in what could be the first challenge in the country to posts on a government Facebook page.

Members of the Hawaii Defense Foundation filed a federal lawsuit, saying the Department violated their right to free speech by deleting their posts.

"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 supress 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.

HPD told KITV it cannot comment on the pending lawsuit, but posted a message on its Facebook page.

"Sharing your experiences with us, either good or bad, is encouraged.  However misrepresentations calculated to harm the reputation of the HPD or others, are considered defamatory and will be deleted as a violation of the posting guidelines."


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