City of North Port Social Media Platform Use Policy
(Updated June 5, 2023)
Because many of our citizens and other stakeholders utilize social media for news and communications, the City of North Port has developed its own social media accounts, which help inform the public about the City’s work and mission. We rely on our own free speech rights to communicate our selected messages. Comments left on the City’s social media sites reflect the views of the commenters, not the views of the City.
The City is committed to fully complying with the freedom of speech clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and other similar legal obligations surrounding free speech. Since we follow the law, there may be times when what some people perceive to be offensive comments left by members of the public will remain visible on our social media posts, when such comments are legally protected speech.
The City has an important interest in assuring the accuracy and consistency of information associated with its social media sites. Those terms and conditions establish guidelines for the public’s use of our social media sites in a way that balances these values.
Content – Any post, writing, material, document, photograph, graphic, video, live-video stream, comment, or other information created, posted, shared, distributed, or transmitted via a social media platform.
Social media platform – Internet and mobile-based application, website, and/or function, other than e-mail, with a focus on immediacy, interactivity, user participation, and information sharing, including but not limited to social networking sites, forums, weblogs (blogs, vlogs, microblogs), online chat sites, and video/photo posting sites, and any similar output or format. Current examples of a social media platform include but are not limited to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Nextdoor and emerging new web-based platforms generally regarded as social media or having many of the same functions as those listed. Social media platform expressly excludes the City’s website.
User – A member of the public who views or interacts with one or more of the City’s social media platforms.
The City Clerk’s Office is responsible for ensuring that all content created or maintained on the City’s social media platforms is properly preserved and retained according to Florida’s Public Records Law, Florida Statutes Chapter 119 (“Sunshine Law”).
All content posted, created, or appearing on a City social media platform is a public record, and subject to retention and disclosure pursuant to the Sunshine Law. Please be aware that content may survive deletion, whether deleted by the creator or someone else.
Requests for Emergency Assistance
In order to better serve the community, the City of North Port utilizes social media platforms to quickly provide information to the public. However, anyone experiencing an emergency or who needs emergency services should call 9-1-1 for immediate assistance. Requests for emergency services will not be addressed through any social media platform unless the City specifically identifies a platform for that purpose. If not specifically identified, no response by the City or any emergency service provider is guaranteed.
To report a crime or information relevant to a crime, anonymous reports can be made by calling (941) 429-7300. An individual posting information related to a crime on a social media platform may be placing themselves in a position to become a witness and could be contacted by the Police Department or subpoenaed to testify in court.
Limited Public Forum/Content Moderation
The City’s social media platforms are established to communicate to the public, to provide information on matters of public interest, and to relay official City content. They are created and maintained as limited public forums under the caselaw pertaining to the freedom of speech clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The City invites members of the public to view and, where possible and permitted, provide comments or other engagement on its social media posts. However, the law permits the City to hide and/or delete content that is not protected speech under the First Amendment and relevant caselaw. As a general rule, the City will not hide and/or delete comments solely because such comments are critical of the City of North Port or its officials. The City may discontinue any or all of its social media platforms at any time and for any reason.
The City regulates its social media platforms for the following reasons:
- Information appearing on a City social media platform appears to carry the approval of the City. Unauthorized posts can confuse the public as to whether the City endorses the information, or if the information forms the City’s official position on a topic; and
- The City’s social media platforms are not intended to and do not operate as a traditional open public forum for the public to express its opinions and views.
The public is encouraged to submit content that is on topic, but content should address a specific topic of discussion. Commenters should also consider that the City’s social media feeds may be viewed by children and other impressionable people. Please avoid profanity, slurs, personal attacks, bullying or use of false information.
As a limited public forum, content posted on a social media platform may be removed in a viewpoint neutral manner in accordance with this policy, and also preserved as a public record. The City will not edit or delete any content unless authorized by this policy or as allowed by law. Additionally, third parties may have control of a social media platform and may act to edit or delete content independently of the City and without the consent, authority, or control of the City.
Practical and legal considerations may sometimes constrain, prevent, or prohibit discussion by the City on certain topics, including but not limited to litigation and pending investigations.
Following or “friending” persons or organizations is not an endorsement by the City and is only intended as a means of communication. Any references or links to a specific entity, product, service, or organization posted on a City social media platform should not be considered as an endorsement by the City, or its departments, employees, officers, or elected officials.
The City does not review, sponsor, or endorse any other website(s) linked to its website or to a City social media platform. The views and opinions of authors expressed on those websites do not necessarily state or reflect the opinion of the City and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying any endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service by the City, its employees, officers, or elected officials.
The City is not responsible for Content that appears on external links.
The City is not responsible for and does not guarantee the authenticity, accuracy, appropriateness, or security of any link, external website, or its content.
By accessing, posting, or commenting on a City social media platform, a user acknowledges that they understand and agree that their and others’ comments are subject to archiving, and that their comments and others’ comments are subject to removal, in whole or in part, from the City’s social media platforms if they contain prohibited content. As indicated above, the City may hide or delete:
- Comments containing or linking to obscenity, which is defined as sexually explicit and/or pornographic content that is patently offensive, appeals to prurient interest, and lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value;
- Comments expressly advocating direct violence or other illegal activity;
- Comments that expressly encourage or advocate the City to illegally discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, veteran status, ethnicity, age, disability, gender identity or any other legally protected class;
- Comments containing links to malware and/or malicious content that affects the normal functioning of a computer system, server or browser;
- Duplicate comments posted repeatedly within a short period of time;
- Comments containing actual defamation against a specifically named person or organization, either as determined by a court or comments that are patently defamatory by easily discovered fact;
- Personally identifiable information or sensitive personal information, that if released would violate federal or state law;
- Information that may compromise the public safety or security of the public or a security system;
- Information that may directly interfere with or compromise an ongoing investigation, public safety tactic, or the safety of a public safety officer;
- Confidential or exempt information in violation of state or federal law;
- Comments that contain images or other content that violate the intellectual property or copyright rights of someone else, if the owner of that property notifies us that the property was posted in a comment on our social media account.
Request for Reconsideration of Removal of Content
When the City hides or deletes content from a social media platform, anyone aggrieved by the decision may seek to have the decision reconsidered by submitting a written request for reconsideration to the Social Media Administrator within five business days via email at communications@northportFL.gov or U.S. Mail at City of North Port, Attention: Communications Division, 4970 City Hall Boulevard, North Port, Florida 34286. A request for reconsideration must contain the following:
- The name and contact information of the aggrieved individual.
- The reason(s) why the individual believes they are aggrieved.
- The reason(s) why the individual believes the item should be allowed pursuant to this policy.
- Any other bases to establish a right to publish the content on the social media platform.
A written decision on the request for reconsideration will be provided to the aggrieved within five business days (excluding official City holidays) of receipt of the request, identifying the basis for the decision for removal. The decision of the City to a request for reconsideration shall be final.
The right to request reconsideration pursuant to this section does not apply to a City employee providing content on a social media platform in their official capacity or as a representative of the City and will only apply when the employee is acting in their personal capacity as a private party, and when exercising the rights accorded a person under the Constitution and the laws of the United States.
When a user violates the terms or conditions of this policy on three or more occasions within a 12-month rolling period, the City may block or ban the offending user from the social media account where the violations occurred.
If a user is blocked the City will (a) reasonably attempt to notify the user; (b) describe the violation(s); and (c) explain the appeal process. If the appeal is successful and the user has not violated this policy three or more times within a rolling 12-month period, the City will unblock or reinstate a user from the social media account. If the appeal is not successful, the City’s decision is final.
The City commits to regularly train its employees on this policy and relevant freedom of speech caselaw and also commits to hold employees accountable if they violate this policy or related law.
The City following or “friending” a person, entity, or organization on a social media platform is not an endorsement by the City of the person, entity, or organization, and is only intended as a means to further communication. Any reference or link to a specific person, entity, product, service, or organization posted by an individual on a City social media platform should not be considered an endorsement by the City or any of its departments, employees, officers, agents, or elected officials.
The City does not review, sponsor, or endorse any other website linked to its website or other social media platform. The views and opinions of authors expressed on a linked website or other social media platform do not necessarily state or reflect the opinion of the City and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying any endorsement or approval of any person, entity, product, service, or organization by the City or any of its departments, employees, officers, agents, or elected officials.
A direct link appearing on a City social media platform should not be construed as an endorsement or sponsorship of these external website, its content, or host. The City specifically disavows legal responsibility for all content appearing on a social media platform not controlled by the City. The views and opinions of the authors of documents published on or linked to a City social media platform do not necessarily state or reflect the opinion, policy, or position of the City.
The City is not responsible for the content, quality, accuracy, appropriateness, security, or completeness of any material referenced by or linked through a City social media platform. By using a City social media platform, the user acknowledges and accepts the risk of injury or damage from viewing, hearing, downloading, or storing any material that is beyond the City’s responsibility or control. Responsibility rests entirely with the user; the City is not responsible for any material stored on any other social media platform or website, and is not liable for any inaccurate, defamatory, offensive, or illegal material found on any other social media platform or website.
The City does not endorse any content, viewpoint, product, or service linked to a City social media platform, and shall not be held liable for any loss caused by reliance on the accuracy, reliability, or timeliness of such information. The City does not warrant the accuracy or reliability of or endorse any product, service, or provider listed or linked to a City social media platform.
Privacy of Children
The City believes in the importance of protecting the privacy of children online. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) governs information gathered online from or about children under the age of 13. Verifiable consent from a child’s parent or guardian is required before collecting, using, or disclosing personal information of a child under age 13. The City’s social media platforms are not intended to solicit information of any kind from a child under age 13. Anyone believing that a City social media platform has collected or received information from or about a child under age 13, should contact the City by Social Media Administrator at (941) 429-7000 or via email at communications@northportFL.gov.
Waiver of Liability
Because various laws exist that create liability for various actions, including but not limited to defamation, invasion of privacy, false light, breach of contract, procurement violations, and violations of due process among many potential areas of exposure for which the City accepts no responsibility based on the actions of others or for creating a social media platform, by using or posting content on a City social media platform the user, for them self, their successors, and assigns, must release, hold harmless, and agree to indemnify the City, its officers, employees, and elected officials from any and all actions, claims, liabilities, and damages of whatever kind and nature arising out of or in connection with the individual’s use of a City social media platform.
The City cautions users that they have no expectation of privacy while using a City social media platform; however, the City will make a reasonable effort to protect confidential and sensitive government information, as well as personal information.
Social Media Platform Standards, Rules, and Community Guidelines
All comments and information posted to a City Facebook site are bound by Facebook’s Community Standards, located at http://www.facebook.com/communitystandards. The City reserves the right to report any violation of Facebook’s Community Standards to Facebook, with the intent of Facebook taking appropriate and reasonable responsive action.
All comments and information posted to the City’s Twitter are bound by Twitter’s Rules, located at https://support.twitter.com/articles/18311. The City reserves the right to report any violation of Twitter’s Rules to Twitter, with the intent of Twitter taking appropriate and reasonable responsive action.
All comments and information posted to a City YouTube channel are bound by YouTube’s Community Guidelines, located at http://www.youtube.com/yt/policyandsafety/communityguidelines.html. The City reserves the right to report any violation of the YouTube Community Guidelines to YouTube, with the intent of YouTube taking appropriate and reasonable responsive action.
All comments and information posted to the City’s Instagram are bound by the Instagram Community Guidelines, located at https://help.instagram.com/477434105621119/. The City reserves the right to report any violation of the Instagram Community Guidelines to Instagram, with the intent of Instagram taking appropriate and reasonable responsive action.
Neighbors Public Safety Service
All comments and information posted to the City’s Neighbors Public Safety Service (“NPSS”) site are bound by the NPSS Terms of Service, located at https://support.ring.com/hc/en-us/articles/360039678152-Neighbors-Public-Safety-Service-Terms-of-Service. The City reserves the right to report any violation of the NPSS Terms of Service to Ring, with the intent of Ring taking appropriate and reasonable responsive action.
All comments and information posted to a City LinkedIn site are bound by the LinkedIn User Agreement, located at https://www.linkedin.com/legal/user-agreement. The City reserves the right to report any violation of the LinkedIn User Agreement to LinkedIn, with the intent of LinkedIn taking appropriate and reasonable responsive action.
All comments and information posted to the City’s Nextdoor site are bound by the Nextdoor Community Guidelines, located at https://help.nextdoor.com/s/article/community-guidelines?language=en_US#guidelines. The City reserves the right to report any violation of the Nextdoor Community Guidelines to Nextdoor, with the intent of Nextdoor taking appropriate and reasonable responsive action.
Severability and Savings
If any part or provision of this policy or the application to any person or circumstance is held to be illegal, invalid, unenforceable, or unconstitutional, the remaining provisions shall be valid and binding upon all users of the City’s social media platforms; the other parts or provisions or application of this policy which can be given effect without the illegal, invalid, unenforceable, or unconstitutional part or provision or application are therefore deemed severable.
Specific questions regarding this policy or its application should be directed to the City of North Port Social Media Administrator at (941) 429-7000 or via email at communications@northportFL.gov.
Pursuant to the requirements of Florida Statutes Section 668.6076 the City provides the following: Under Florida law, e-mail addresses are public records. If you do not want your e-mail address released in response to a public records request, do not send electronic mail to this entity. Instead, contact this office by phone or in writing.