Social media can be an amazing tool for pushing information out into the world to keep people informed about what is going on.
When it comes to local governments, however, the requirements can be more than burdensome, from assigning somebody to perform content moderation to retaining and archiving all comments in order to satisfy California’s laws around public forums.
But Lathrop thinks it may have a solution.
While the city does have a Facebook page that is primarily used by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and other departments to publish fliers, items that would generate more discussion — like updates on the city’s pursuit to start its own police department — will likely be posted to the Nextdoor app in the near future.
And it all comes down to content moderation and archiving.
Lathrop City Clerk Teresa Vargas said high-traffic posts on social media would require staff to routinely monitor the content that is collecting in the comment section and would create a heavy workload amongst city staff in order to legally and properly observe all of the requirements of government agencies when it comes to public records.
But with Nextdoor — an app typically used to create discussions around neighborhoods — the City of Lathrop would be able to establish an account with comments fully disabled under the social media company’s government doctrine platform, and that would allow the city to take a more active role in sharing information with the public.
Councilwoman Minnie Diallo referred the social media discussion for Monday’s council agenda and said that young people in the community would be better informed about things that are going on in Lathrop if they were able to receive more information on the social media sites that they frequent.
City Manager Steve Salvatore said that while lots of cities and government agencies use social media accounts to inform the public, very few follow all of the legal steps to ensure that the comments are archived and kept because of the difficultly in doing so.
“Any platform that allows the public to comment, and for that comment to be visible, becomes a public forum — if we receive a comment that is profane or vulgar, those are easy to exclude,” Lathrop City Attorney Salvador Navarrete said. “But political speech, or any variation of first-amendment protected speech — we wouldn’t be able to remove, redact, or edit that if we provide a public forum, and it’s a much more difficult management task.”
The City of Lathrop has an existing social media policy that outlines how the city should use the communication tool and the steps involved with doing so. To obtain a copy of the policy, which was included in the agenda for Monday’s meeting, visit the City of Lathrop’s website at www.ci.lathrop.ca.us.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.