- Associated Press - Friday, June 15, 2018

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Gov. Mike Parson will no longer block users on his social media accounts as he did when he served as lieutenant governor, according to the new governor’s staff.

Parson and former Gov. Eric Greitens were the only Missouri statewide officials who regularly blocked critics and others on their social media accounts, drawing criticism from free speech advocates.

“Official social media pages, maintained by government employees, are a public forum,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “Blocking or banning constituents because of their viewpoint would violate the First Amendment.”

Since Parson became governor June 1, when Greitens resigned, his staff has created new official accounts, The Kansas City Star reported .

Parson’s personal and campaign accounts on Twitter and Facebook will abide by whatever policy is eventually established and will unblock anyone who was previously blocked, his communications director, Steele Shippy, said.



“We are working to restore and build trust in the governor’s office,” he said in a statement to the Star. “We’re opening the doors of the office and ensuring every Missourian has the opportunity to share their opinions freely.”

While he was lieutenant governor, Parson’s office often used taxpayer-funded staff to post information on his personal and campaign social media accounts to reach as many people as possible, said Kelli Jones, a spokeswoman for Parson who worked in the lieutenant governor’s office and now is his press secretary. Parson posted some items on both accounts.

After The Star filed an open records request in May, Jones said the lieutenant governor’s office changed its policy to confine initial posts about official actions on official social media accounts. Staff and Parson’s family can share updates after a post enters the public domain.

Parson’s official staffers no longer have access to his personal or campaign accounts, and the governor’s office will not block anyone from seeing or interacting with its posts on social media, his staff said.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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