Presidio County Sheriff’s Office Accused of First Amendment Violation by Deleting Public Comments on Facebook

A concerned citizen has filed a formal complaint against the Presidio County Sheriff’s Office, alleging that their Facebook page administrator deleted or hid critical comments posted by the individual. The complaint argues that this action constitutes a violation of the First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.

According to the complaint, the citizen posted comments on the Presidio County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page on April 17, expressing negative facts about the organization. Soon after, the individual noticed that their comments had been deleted or hidden by the page administrator. The complainant believes that this action infringes on their First Amendment rights, which protect the freedom of speech and the right to express opinions and criticize government entities.

The complaint cites federal and state constitutional, statutory, and case law to support its argument, including the 2017 case of Davison v. Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, which established that a public official’s Facebook page can be considered a “designated public forum.” In that case, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled that deleting critical comments constituted viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment. Similar rulings have been made in cases such as Knight First Amendment Institute v. Trump and Morgan v. Bevin.

In Texas, Article 1, Section 8 of the Texas Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech, while the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA) mandates governmental transparency and opportunities for public comment. The complaint alleges that by deleting or hiding critical comments on the Presidio County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, the agency may be in violation of these state constitutional and statutory protections.

The citizen has requested that the Presidio County Sheriff’s Office Professional Standards Division investigate the matter and take appropriate action to prevent future violations of citizens’ First Amendment rights. The outcome of the investigation and any subsequent measures taken by the agency remain to be seen.

The concerned citizen posted a comment critical of Presidio County Sheriff’s office on this and several other posts. The critical comments were factual in nature, linking to a Big Bend Times articles concerning the Sheriff’s conduct. They contained no profanity or abusive language and did not violate any published policies of the agency or the Facebook social media platform.

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