HCSO Violates Woman's Rights for Making Simple Request on Facebook
Last updated 7/17/2023 at 3:59pm
HERNANDO – The First Amendment is widely held as the most important part of the Bill of Rights. Without the First Amendment, our liberty and independence would be subverted and open the door to tyrannical rule.
In recent years, Big Tech moguls like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, actively engaged in suppressing free speech through censorship and indoctrinating its subscribers with whatever information they feel society should support. These quasi-dictators influence elections, social issues, economies, and even national security.
Numerous attempts have been made to challenge the social media giants over censorship and other unethical practices, but due to the fact that they are private companies, not many have prevailed. Big Tech is essentially immune to prosecution because they are allowed to set their own rules. If you don't like it, don't subscribe. With billions of people around the world subscribing to these platforms, where do you draw the line?
Local governments, like law enforcement agencies and school boards have turned to social media to provide public information and allow citizens to engage in discussions, but some say these agencies are starting to abuse their power and restrict free speech.
Delbert Sgaggio, a resident of Woodland Park, Colorado was recently awarded $65,000 after he sued the city for blocking him on their Facebook page. Sgaggio criticized Police Chief Miles De Young on the agency's Facebook page, which resulted in the removal of his comment and being blocked.
Sgaggio's attorney, Andy McNulty stated, "Woodland Park and its officials are acting like their counterparts in Russia, China, and North Korea that censor their citizens online. Luckily, in this country, we have the First Amendment and brave citizens like Delbert Sgaggio to protect us from oppressive government officials like Chief De Young otherwise, clearly, he would act just like Vladimir Putin without any repercussions."
Some residents in Hernando County have sounded the alarm over the Sheriff's Office and School District arbitrarily removing comments and blocking citizens from accessing their pages.
Since the recent hullaballoo over threats and violations by school district employees, and Superintendent John Stratton vying for a possession in other districts, people started noticing something strange in district's comment threads. R News inspected several district posts and found that all critical comments were deleted or hidden and complimentary remained visible. R News inquired about the change in their commenting policy, but we have not received a reply on that specific issue.
Last week, R News received several inquiries about the Hernando County Sheriff's Office posting an image of a former drug house and setting it as their cover photo. The image depicts a sign that reads "Drug House Closed for Business," that was taken during a 2020 drug raid in Brooksville. Kay Danielle, an acquaintance of the current homeowner, commented on the thread, asking the Sheriff's Office to remove the image. Danielle writes, "This photo is from 4 years ago and the house was sold. The people who live here are different family and deserve to be left alone." Danielle made numerous attempts to gain the attention of the agency's Public Information Officers, but they completely ignored her requests.
Other commenters raised concerns over the image, like Rae Kristina who said, "I'd be pissed if I was trying to sell my home and this sign was up. Yea good they are gone but [think] better way to announce it." Christopher Lowe stated, "Someone's property values just went down. Thanks, Real News Real Fast. I mean HCSO." Kelly Hawk came to Danielle's defense and said, "Can you address comments above. Kay keeps reposting the same message. Maybe you can post the sign and not reuse old pictures..." Some shared concerns over the safety of the new owners, stating that drug dealers could mistake the home as rivals, and commit robberies and other violent crimes against them. Property values could also be adversely affected by the agency promoting a residence as a former drug house.
R News reached out to Danielle who said, "She simply want the photo taken down and not used again. She (homeowner) is a law-abiding citizen, raising her kids there."
R News contacted the Sheriff Office and asked why they refused to respond to Danielle's comments and if they would be removing the post. Officials did not respond to our inquiry; instead, they proceeded to ban Danielle from the agency's page and deleted all her comments.
In response to the agency's action, Danielle told R News, "The fact that they blocked me from seeing updates about crimes in the county I live in, because they didn't like that I called them out, is crazy."
Danielle said she plans to meet with officials and will consider legal action for violating her First Amendment rights.
A record search revealed that HCSO has blocked over 300 people over the last decade, but no one has challenged the agency for their blatant constitutional violations – most likely because most people aren't aware of the law.
According to a 2019 Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, the interactive portion of a public official's Facebook page is a "public forum." It doesn't matter if the page is owned by a private company (Facebook), because once an agency page opens the interactive space to comments, it is no different than standing in the town square, exercising free speech. Prohibiting a citizen from entering the "town square" is the same as blocking a citizen from a taxpayer funded government Facebook page, and deleting their comments is no different than placing a muzzle on their mouths.
Several lawsuits have been filed around the country from citizens claiming their First Amendment rights have been violated, many of them have already prevailed and received large settlements.
NOTE: R News is in the process of filing lawsuits against the Sheriff's Office and School Board for blocking our accounts. The details of those lawsuits cannot be discussed at this time, but we will report on the actions as they proceed through federal court.