New York Assemb. Charles Lavine on Monday called on Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino to restore the town’s Facebook page.
Saladino had the town’s Facebook page removed and replaced with his own page after winning the November election. He has come under fire from constituents and critics, including town board candidates, for blocking some people from the page.
“The problem you have created is that your personal page replaces and represents the town page and your censorship of critical comments leaves the community with a manipulated and manicured Facebook page presenting a manipulated social media presence,” Lavine (D-Glen Cove) wrote in a Jan. 29 letter to Saladino.
Town officials earlier this month said four people were banned from posting on Saladino’s Facebook page for alleged repeat violations of the town’s user policy.
Saladino declined to be interviewed about Facebook. Town spokesman Brian Nevin said in an email, “This issue is clearly misinterpreted as the town of Oyster Bay has multiple government Facebook pages for citizen interaction.”
The Oyster Bay website homepage had linked to the town’s Facebook page, but now that link directs users to Saladino’s page. The town has created at least two separate departmental Facebook pages, but those links aren’t prominent on the town’s website.
Lavine said the official town Facebook page should be restored “so that our citizens may post appropriate comments, whether laudatory or critical.”
He also called for the town board to develop an official social media policy so that the public understands what kinds of comments are permitted and which would result in users being banned.
Lavine noted that a resident had been blocked and her comment removed after she questioned Saladino’s praise on his Facebook page of a restaurant that had been a campaign contributor.
Susan Gottehrer, director of the NYCLU Nassau County chapter, said in a statement, “The social media pages of public officials and government representatives must be open and transparent platforms. When a government official, in their public capacity, bans critics from speaking in public forums, dissent is chilled, public conversation is warped, and public perception is skewed.”
Saladino last week told former town board candidate Robert Freier that he was blocked from writing on Saladino’s Facebook page because of repeat violations of posting policies.
“We have been protecting the public from inaccurate information,” Saladino said at the Jan. 23 town board meeting.
Saladino said Freier violated policies on comments that threaten or defame people, suggest or encourage illegal activity and off-topic comments, but he declined to provide examples.
“At least show me evidence of where I broke those rules,” Freier said at the meeting. Freier said his comments were never obscene, hateful or racist.
“We must keep only factual information on there,” Saladino told him. “You have a Facebook page, you can use for the purposes that you see fit.”
Saladino told Freier it was a time for the town to come together, “This is a time of healing.”
“You’re more than welcome to sit with our town attorney and discuss your feelings,” Saladino said.