BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Social media and its usage may be proving a problem in Bridgewater Township, if discussion at a recent town council meeting is any indication.
Council president Matthew Moench said that the town’s administration has been taking down comments from the municipality’s Facebook page that were not liked. Moench added that if the Facebook accounts being used to post comments are determined to be fake or otherwise unverified, then the comments can be deleted.
But the catch, he said, is how to determine if accounts are indeed false or unconfirmed.
Moench asked about the township's standard for deletion if a comment is not profane, and questioned whether every comment posted would be subject to such scrutiny.
Township administrator James Naples said he would get the council a response to the deletion issue, but he doesn’t believe comments have been removed. He said the administration goes over such online comments “as a collective.”
Moench asked if background checks are performed, ostensibly on the social media accounts. Naples said they are sometimes, and that any questions that arise are run by the legal department.
Moench said he would like to know what the standard is, while councilman Filipe Pedroso said he wants to receive copies of all the deleted comments.
“I believe they’re subject to OPRA,” said Pedroso of the Open Public Records Act, in regards to all of the township’s social media sites.
“I find this very troubling,” he added.
Pedroso also said that the public has a right to comment on government activity, regardless of whether those comments are positive or negative, and that the administration deleting comments is “outrageous.”
Pedroso also asked what is considered to be insulting language. He said that censoring public comments is “a slippery slope," and added that he doesn’t want the township to do that.
Lois Nagy, of Martinsville, spoke during the public portion of the meeting, and said that “nothing respectful was going on” with regard to Facebook. She also said that Pedroso had banned her from his site, to which Pedroso replied that it is his private page, while she countered that it says “council.”
“A government website should not be censored,” said Nagy, who added that there are three profiles that are making disparaging remarks.