Antioch police disable comments on one social media page

The Antioch Police Department has disabled comments on its Facebook page as of Wednesday.

Acting City Manager Forrest Ebbs said that he directed staff to stop allowing comments on the police Facebook page, though commenting is still allowed on the less popular Instagram and Twitter pages.

“We made the decision – and this is my direction in collaboration with the police chief – that the community would be best served if we disabled the comments on Facebook,” Ebbs said Wednesday afternoon. “…Facebook is the most popular of our media sites and it was the one that was the beginning to kind of evolve into that public forum.”

The city has a number of public forums underway already through the police department, as well as listening sessions and community engagement efforts, Ebbs said.

“So we are really trying to steer people toward that,” the acting city manager said.

Ebbs said the city’s communications outreach strategy is geared toward those who live or work in the community, whereas Facebook is open to everyone no matter where they live.

“Facebook is open to the world, right?” he said. “And, so we want to make sure that we hear the voices of our residents and the people who live and work here. And that’s what our forums are for.”

Ebbs said no one was monitoring the police department’s Facebook pages, and even though commenters could post incorrect information, they didn’t want to get into fact-checking or responding back and forth with them.

“That’s something we’re very reluctant to do, to begin editing on any basis,” he said. “There’s a strong precedent that supports people’s rights to communicate once that communication is open, so we wanted to avoid the situation where we had to make those decisions on a post-by-post basis.”

“We’re strong proponents of the First Amendment, the right to freedom of speech, and so we wouldn’t want to censor folks.”

Ebbs said that plenty of forums already exist for the police department to listen to residents and to present a consistent message to them.

“We want to have residents take advantage of those because they are really productive forums,” he said. “And again, they are tailored to the residents and those who work and live here.”

Even so, some questioned whether it was legal to disable comments, but according to a First Amendment Coalition spokesman, it is.

“Generally, if a public agency opens up a forum for speech there, they can’t discriminate based on viewpoint within that forum, but they might not be required to keep it open indefinitely,” David Loy, legal director for the First Amendment Coalition said.

If it’s a one-way channel for dispensing information – rather than a forum – a government entity is not required to accept comments in return, he said.

“I don’t like it,” Loy added. “Obviously, I think the government should be as transparent and responsive and accountable as possible.”

Reached Wednesday evening, Mayor Lamar Thorpe said he didn’t know where the idea for the change came from, but said he favored having one centralized social media page with everything posting in one location.

“It’s a more streamlined and efficient way,” he said.

Just consuming crime news, for example, “isn’t always healthy” he said, noting there’s much more to be said about the city than that.

“I just think that gives you a false perception of reality,” the mayor added. “From my perspective, I think we should have one city social media platform, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, whatever, and everything kind of runs through there and people get an array of information from Parks and Recreation to policing to Public Works issues and more.”

Police Chief Ford did not return messages by deadline, but the department posted a comment on its Facebook page Wednesday, saying:

“The Antioch Police Department has been directed to disable public comments on Facebook social media posts. If you would like to provide your feedback, please contact us at 925-779-6801 or email us at”

Check back for updates.

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *