An interesting dilemma in Spokane, Washington, regarding a paid Facebook ad

This is one that I think has a series of interesting political implications and is very worthy of debate, not for how controversial the action is, but because of the potentially chilling effect it could have on free speech.

Here’s the background.  Spokane, Washington, just past an ordinance which requires most employers offer paid sick leave.  As you can imagine, this was a highly controversial issue.  Councilwoman Karen Stratton was one of the supporters of the ordinance.  In the most recent election she was opposed by Evan Verduin, the owner of an architectural design firm.  Verduin also opposed the paid sick leave ordinance and was upset that Councilwoman Stratton, among others, didn’t conduct more study or outreach to the business community.

Here’s where it gets interesting.  Verduin took to Facebook to express his opposition to the new policy and the way in which it became law:

“Now that the election season is over, the City Council has voted to enact the sick leave ordinance without additional study. There was no additional outreach to local businesses, no contact with business associations, and a total disregard of dozens of scientific studies that prove legislation like this harms those most for whom it is intended to help. Karen Stratton and wanted this legislation passes, and they delayed the vote prior to election to mislead the voters of Spokane. Shame on you Karen!”

Verdium then used his campaign funds to pay for the post to appear as a sponsored ad.

Another twist: Veridun is a member of Spokane’s Planning Commission and up for reappointment, which is subject to the consent of Council.  Councilwoman Stratton has announced that she will oppose Veridun’s appointment, laying out her reasons why in a letter to Council and the Mayor:

“The most charitable characterization of his comments is that they were juvenile and immature. In any other context, the comments could be defamatory and actionable.”

“The issue is whether Mr. Verduin is capable of engaging in civil public discourse that reflects well on the City and the Plan Commission.”

My feeling?  I can understand Councilwoman Stratton’s feelings, I really can.  That being said, I disagree with the decision to oppose Veridun’s appointment.  One of the most difficult things in politics – one that I will openly admit I struggle with – is dealing with the fact that citizens can say mean, nasty, terrible things about you.  Facebook gives your critics a megaphone.  Public officials may not like it, but within some very broad limits, there’s nothing that can be done about it.  If you assume that citizens criticizing elected officials is appropriate – and I do – then I think it’s unfair to oppose a citizen’s reappointment to a commission, provided that the citizen in question is doing a good job and represents your views.

Again, this is a difficult one, but public officials have to have thick skin.  That being said, I acknowledge that this is easy for me to say…I’m on the other side of the country.  If I were Councilwoman Stratton, I may feel very differently!

 

Police officer suspended after giving instructions on how to best run over protestors

A police officer in St. Paul, Minnesota has been suspended for making the following insane Facebook post:

St. Paul and Minneapolis (the twin cities) have seen a sharp rise in protest activity related to the Black Lives Matter movement (in fact, I’d previously written about it, when a Minneapolis Councilwoman “outed” those who had sent her critical correspondence as a result of her attendance at a Black Lives Matter protest).  That was the impetus for Sgt. Jeffrey Rothecker making the above post, which suggests that protesters be run over and then gives advise on how to best handle the aftermath of said murder attempt.

Wow.

Sgt. Rothecker was posting under a pseudonym, but the post was obviously traced back to him, and the results were predictable: The Sergeant was suspended.  In a statement, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said:

“I am outraged and disgusted by the post and have directed the SPPD to investigate. That investigation is currently underway.

“Chief Smith and I are committed to building strong, trusting relationships with the communities we serve.

“There is no room in the Saint Paul Police Department for employees who threaten members of the public. If the allegation is true, we will take the strongest possible action allowed under law.

As always, using social media to incite violence is always an absolutely terrible thing.  I suspect that Sgt. Rothecker believed himself to be at least somewhat protected, since he was using a pseudonym.  It has been said before, and clearly, needs to be said again: There is no such thing as anonymity or privacy online.  Things you say can always be tracked back to you, and clearly, that is exactly what happened here.

Social Media Logo Collage

What is a video view? Depends on who you are asking

When you are measuring the reach of an internet video, one of the most important question is an obvious one: How many views can that video rack up?

Okay, fair enough.  But, here’s a more important question: What counts as a video view?  It seems straight forward enough, but each platform has a different interpretation of what counts as a view, and this is something you must keep in mind when measuring the success of a video.

So, what are the definitions of a video view?

  • YouTube: How, exactly, YouTube counts a view is unknown.  However, a view has to be “requested,” and YouTube has security that stops a view from counting if it’s viewed for “mere seconds.” Autoplayed videos don’t count.
  • Facebook: Facebook has one of the loosest definitions of a video view.  A view counts as when a video is watched for at least three seconds, even if the video autoplays in the Facebook newsfeed. Autoplay will start on the desktop when 100% of the video is visible in the screen, but only 50% on a mobile device.
  • Instagram: Like Facebook, a view is counted when someone watches a video for three seconds.  Views are not accessible to the general public, however.
  • Snapchat: Very differently measured here – Snapchat video views are counted the instant a video loads.  However, a user has to tap on a video to get it to load.
  • Vine: Views (called Loops) are counted when an entire Vine is watched – usually six seconds.

So, there you have it! Hope this is helpful!

Kansas State Representative shares racist meme on Facebook

Sharing offensive Facebook content is often a fast path towards instant condemnation.  That’s a lesson that Kansas State Representative John Bradford (R-Lansing) just learned the hard way.

Last week, Representative Bradford shared this picture on his Facebook page:

John Bradford Facebook Post

The picture originated from the Facebook group Conservative Country, which features a variety of conservative, anti-Democrat and anti-Obama memes.

As you can see, the meme is just horrendously racist.  Representative Bradford did remove the post, but obviously faced overwhelming criticism for making it in the first place. Said Carolyn Campbell, a member of the Kansas Board of Education, Democrat and African-American, “Representative Bradford’s actions make it very clear that we are far from reaching Dr. King’s dream of equality. I’m saddened and appalled that this is an individual who is making decisions that impact our children’s education system.”

When interviewed afterwards, Representative Bradford expressed regret for the post: “It was in bad taste and I regret it.”

Interestingly – and certainly not surprisingly – this isn’t the first time that Representative Bradford has been accused of racism.  Representative Bradford was actually one of nine Republican Representatives who filed a complaint against a Democratic Representative – Valdenia Winn – after Representative Winn accused Bradford, and others, of holding “racist, sexist, fear-mongering” attitudes based on their support of legislation which would repeal residential tuition rates, at state universities, for illegal immigrants.

Clearly, those accusations will now be seen in an entirely new light!

Tweets and Consequences

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Mayor of Superior, Wisconsin, takes to Facebook to call President Obama a Muslim

Welcome back from Christmas break, everyone!  Here’s how we’ll be starting the social media day.

Bruce Hagen is the Mayor of Superior, Wisconsin (population about 27,000).  Hagen, in response to a picture of First Lady Michelle Obama, wrote the following on Facebook:

“Unbelievable! She and her Muslim partner have destroyed the fabric of democracy that was so very hard fought for!”

Ahh, so we’re going with the “Obama is a Muslim” meme again, I see.  That’s lovely.

Needless to say, the city’s residents and other elected officials were not amused.  Five City Councilors called for Mayor Hagen to resign in the wake of his remarks, with Councilors calling the remarks “inappropriate.”  Mayor Hagen, for his part, refuses to resign, saying: “Am I gonna resign? Absolutely not. If the people of this community feel otherwise, they will vote me out of office.”

The standard response of Hagen’s remarks, from defenders, is probably something along the lines of “Free speech!”  They are right, of course – to a point.  The Mayor is, unquestionably, entitled to say whatever he wants (within certain broad limits) without fear of government repercussions.  But here’s the thing: Free speech doesn’t mean freedom from the consequences of your speech, and elected officials are, as I’ve said a thousand times, held to a higher standard for the content of their remarks.  Indeed, this was best elucidated by City Councilor Graham Garfield, who said, “”Sure he’s entitled to free speech.  But elected officials are held accountable for stupid things they do and say.”

Tweets and Consequences

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Alabama State Representative: Shop “American owned” only

Alan Harper is a State Representative in Alabama.  He is making the blog today because of this blatantly xenophobic Facebook post:

Alan Harper

To summarize: Representative Harper wants you to only shop at “American owned” stores to “purchase has and other items.”  Why?  Because non-American owned shops are “owned by folks that send their profits back to their homeland and then in turn use these funds against our country to create turmoil, fear and in some cases death and destruction.”

Wowzers.

As you can imagine, Representative Harper’s comments have come under attack from Democrats and the people at whom they were directed. What is more interesting is that the comments have also been denounced by the Alabama Republican Party.  In a statement, Terry Lathan, Chair of the Alabama Republican Party, called the statement divisive:

“The comments recently made by State Representative Alan Harper on his Facebook page referencing the racial profiles of American business owners are very concerning. Mr. Harper is certainly welcome to his own personal opinion on any topic, but his statements absolutely do not represent the views of the Republican Party.”

His comments in no way, shape, or form reflect the values of the national or state party. Our nation has seen too much divisiveness on racial issues which only puts a wedge between our citizens.”

As of yet, Representative Harper has not elaborated on his comments aside form an additional Facebook post:

“God bless each and everyone and God Bless America! Isn’t it funny when things are taken out of context. Please buy American every chance you get to build our local economies…where we know the revenues stay here in the good old United States of America! May God Bless!”

I’m not quite sure what “context” the Representative was referring to here…except the blatantly racist one.

Tweets and Consequences

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Ohio Mayor says blacks declared war on whites

In this time of racial tension and discord, all elected officials have an obligation to watch what they say, in order to ensure that their speech is always as measured and anti-inflammatory as possible.

This is a lesson which could have been used by the Drew Hastings, Mayor of Hillsboro, Ohio (population 6,600), who took to Facebook last week and wrote:

“When are people going to figure out that we are in a Revolution in this Country. Blacks have all but formally declared war on whites, ideological types are fighting with Planned Parenthood, there’s violence over immigration, Muslim extremism, and our own Government at war with its citizens.”

Really?  Black people have “all but formally declared war on whites?”  That’s what you are going with??

The post was deleted but the damage was obviously done.  Hastings originally said that he started by discussed Planned Parenthood but the conversation escalated from there.  Two days later, he said he regretted the post and apologized:

“I have a good relationship in this city with our black community, and I regret them feeling included in some broad, over-the-top statement I made. I apologize to them.”

Alrighty then.  Well, let’s take Mayor Hastings at his word for a moment.  Hastings said that the post was just an escalation of a passionate conversation about an emotional and tragic event.  I think this goes to show the importance of taking a breath and slowing down before you make any social media post – particularly about issues as emotional as racism or violence.  All of us can learn something from this event: Don’t let social media be the first thing you turn to when you are trying to work through your own feelings about an issue.  Let it be the last one, when you have a mature, thoughtful and rational contribution to make.

Tweets and Consequences

Like the blog?  Get the book!  Tweets and Consequences: 60 Social Media Disasters in Politics and How You Can Avoid A Career-Ending Mistake is now available on Amazon for purchase or download.