- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

City leaders in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, say too much time has been devoted to addressing negative messages that have been posted on social media sites — so they’ve voted to ban workers from writing anything bad at all.

And not just city employees.

The South Pittsburg City Commission voted 4-1 for an “all-inclusive” social networking policy, which basically bans a whole sect of people — appointed board members, employees, vendors, volunteers, contracts and all who associate with the local government on official business — from posting anything online that’s deemed negative about the city, the Times Free Press reported.

“It seems like every few meetings, we’re having to address something that’s been on Facebook and created negative publicity,” Commissioner Jeff Powers said in the local newspaper. “This is just an industry standard nowadays.”

The policy applies to postings about the government on blogs, online forum discussions, Facebook and Twitter pages, and videos.

All city employees will have to sign a form saying they are aware of the new policy — and those who violate its terms can be disciplined, Mr. Powers said, the Times Free Press reported.

“The first thing everyone wants to say is, ‘I can’t post anything on Facebook.’ Well, you can,” Mr. Powers told the newspaper. “Just not [anything] that sheds a negative light on any person, entity, board or things of that nature. You can go ahead and post all you want.”

City attorney Billy Gouger said the policy wasn’t intended as a First Amendment clamp-down.

“What this police tries to do is reconcile that right with other rights,” he said, the Times Free Press reported. “It does, to some extent, limit your ability to criticize or comment in an official capacity.”

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