Headline: Delete at Your Own Risk: How Social Media Can Run Afoul of the First Amendment
By Mark A. Cuthbertson and Matthew DeLuca | March 09, 2018 at 02:30 PM
(Two concluding excerpts from the above article:)
“officials must act carefully to avoid unconstitutional censorship when moderating their social media accounts.”
“Recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and a federal district court in Virginia suggest that the rigorous protections afforded to freedom of speech generally extend to the digital realm as well.”
There are a number of lawsuits underway regarding first amendment rights on social media forums.
On the USAA Community forum, if you do a search on “Deleted Post” you will see there are 63 results. If you do a search on “Deleted Message” you will see there are 30 Results.
When a USAA moderator tells a member to not do something on this public forum (ie, placing a restriction on a member’s freedom of speech) the moderator does not reference any policy document and the moderator does not quote any exact policy wording, the moderator simply sends the member a few sentences saying what he doesn’t want him to do.
When USAA moves a post out of the public viewing area and into a restricted area of sub-topics, that post can not come back to the public viewing area, even if you reply to it. USAA saying they are moving a member’s post from the public viewing area to the non-public area “to ensure the right area addresses your post” is a legal question mark, especially when the post is a conversation or comment, and not a question.
USAA temporarily turning off a member’s access to the community forum when no violation of a formal documented policy can be shown leaves a legal question mark and is viewed as a red line in many legal articles on this topic.
USAA should feel a responsibility to ensure members have easy access to the formal USAA policy documents and guidelines for posting messages on this community forum. That policy document should be clearly available for viewing when a member creates an account on the forum.
When USAA directs a member not to do something the moderator should reference the title of the policy document and quote the exact policy wording from the policy document.
USAA should do a complete review of its policy guidelines for this forum and when completed make them available to the community forum for review.
In conclusion, many of the people on this community forum are the defender’s of freedom and USAA should allow its member community to exercise that freedom with minimal restrictions (as long as we are doing it in a responsible manner) and certainly not disconnect members from that freedom for no reason or move posts out of the public viewing area.