ACLU Vermont attorney confirms reports of comment-blocking by governor’s Facebook page

Vermonters upset over Gov. Phil Scott’s flip-flop on gun control have taken to social media to vent their anger, but a lawyer with the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says some of their comments are getting deleted from the governor’s Facebook page.

Jay Diaz, a lawyer for the Vermont ACLU, told True North Reports that his office has received several complaints from Vermont gun owners whose comments posted to the governor’s official Facebook page have been removed.

Vermont Bar Foundation photo

ACLU Vermont attorney Jay Diaz: “We’ve heard from a number of individuals who said that they have been blocked from posting on the governor’s official Facebook page. These are pro-Second Amendment rights people whose comments have been deleted. We are collecting and reviewing their comments.”

“We’ve heard from a number of individuals who said that they have been blocked from posting on the governor’s official Facebook page,” Diaz said. “These are pro-Second Amendment rights people whose comments have been deleted. We are collecting and reviewing their comments.”

READ: ACLU letter to Gov. Phil Scott

Diaz claims Scott’s staff also blocked negative comments on the governor’s Twitter page last summer, and said such complaints are becoming more common.

For example, the Knight Institute at Columbia University is suing the Trump administration for allegedly blocking social media comments. Last summer, ACLU Maine announced that it was suing Maine Gov. Paul LePage for deleting comments from his official Facebook page.

“This is an emerging First Amendment issue in Vermont in the Digital Age,” Diaz said. “The New York Southern District Court ruled that Twitter accounts by public officials are considered as public forums, so a public official can’t just selectively block public comments you don’t like.”

“People are upset over this and it’s understandable,” he said. “They comment in public and then they find they are shut out.”

Rebecca Kelley, Scott’s spokesperson, told True North that comments or people who get blocked on the governor’s social media accounts are targeted for valid reasons.

“Any deleted comments or blocked accounts would be due to violation of our posted social media policy,” she said. ” … We use a Facebook feature that automatically hides posts that use profanity.”

Kelley noted that the governor’s social media policy acts as a guideline for what appears and what is removed. According to that policy, the function of the governor’s social media accounts “is to open channels for constituent service and engagement. We value constituent inquiries, as well as constructive feedback and criticism.”

Despite winning the governorship by a comfortable margin, Gov. Phil Scott has seen his favorability rating fall nearly 20 percent since the run-up to the 2016 election. Anti-Scott t-shirts have even begun appearing in the Green Mountain State.

Constituents who have contacted Scott’s office with abusive, nasty and disrespectful comments are discouraged from commenting on Facebook.

“Some have been attacked by other commenters,” the policy reads. As a result, the governor’s stance is that comments and accounts may be blocked or deleted due to vulgar or violent language, disrespect toward other users, off-topic posts, impersonation, spam, fake accounts and violation of state transparency and disclosure laws.

Liz Mason, of Hyde Park, is a gun advocate who operates the Vermont Gun Owners Facebook page along with other gun advocates. She says followers of the page have been vocal about their anger at the governor, and have complained of getting blocked simply for criticizing Scott policies.

“I first started hearing about the governor’s Facebook page back in May,” Mason said. “The governor has received a lot of negative comments, not just from gun owners, over a variety of issues.”

“I called Gov. Scott’s office several times and asked two male staffers about who was doing the blocking. I also informed these staffers that there was a recent lawsuit against the governor of Maryland over the exact same thing. They had no answers for me,” she said.

Mason said representatives of the governor’s office told her the social media accounts are  managed by “a dozen or so people,” making it difficult to know who’s responsible for deleting comments. “We left it with the governor’s office promising to call me back about who is doing this; well, they never called me back,” she said.

“From what I can tell, the policy is wide open to interpretation,” Mason added. “I know some of the people who were blocked — they certainly didn’t violate the policy guidelines.”

J.T. Dodge: “ACLU Vermont has asked a lot of us to pull our deleted comments together and send them to attorney Jay Diaz.”

J.T. Dodge of Newbury, a Second Amendment advocate and director of the Vermont Citizens Defense League, was one of the individuals whose Facebook comments were deleted by the Scott team.

“I was blocked about a month and half ago,” Dodge told True North. “ACLU Vermont has asked a lot of us to pull our deleted comments together and send them to attorney Jay Diaz.”

Dodge isn’t sure why his comments were targeted for deletion.

“My comments weren’t out of line, in my view, even though there’s a lot of animosity regarding this governor,” he said.

“Gov. Scott is the opposite of what we all expected, so there’s going to be strong reactions online. My comments weren’t rude or derogatory. I never swear or call people names online. Yes, I said a lot, but I wanted to keep this topic going. It’s so easy for the governor to change the subject or change the focus. Facebook makes it very easy.”

Dodge sees a growing pushback among Scott’s supporters in the wake of his decision in April to sign S.55 into law. That bill imposed background checks on private gun sales, set a 10-round magazine limit for rifles and 15 rounds for pistols, banned bump stocks, and raised the firearms purchase age to 21.

Two other bills, H.422 and S.221, allow for the confiscation of guns in domestic violence situations or if a judge determines a person to be a dangerous risk to himself or others.

“It’s not that we don’t care about school safety, but we care about our Second Amendment rights, too,” Dodge said. “There will be a backlash (this November). … The governor is making enemies out of everyone. The Democrats don’t like him and conservative Republicans don’t like him either.”

Meanwhile, retrieved Facebook comments by Dodge, and others, are being reviewed by ACLU Vermont.

“I am glad to see ACLU Vermont is standing up for us, because this organization doesn’t usually stand up for gun rights,” Dodge said. “I don’t think there’s a personal issue with the governor (and ACLU Vermont) because it’s so clearly a First Amendment issue.”

Mason, who said she watched 64 comments on Scott’s Facebook page reduced to only 24 in a single day, said she is glad to see the ACLU get involved.

“There were 64 comments on the Facebook page one day, and then the next day only 24 remained,” Mason said. “It’s a rights infringement, and the ACLU Vermont attorney is very interested in talking with gun advocates who have been blocked.”

Lou Varricchio is a freelance reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at lvinvt@gmx.com.

Images courtesy of Vermont Bar Foundation photo and J.T. Dodge
Spread the love

24 thoughts on “ACLU Vermont attorney confirms reports of comment-blocking by governor’s Facebook page

  1. Vermont Digger….what a joke. They censor ALL THE TIME!! Conservative opinions have no place.
    I quit reading their garbage months ago.

    • Digger recently posted a piece that is just a bit critical of Bernie, now they can say, “see we’re balanced, we report both sides of the issue” I would love to see articles and posts from folks who have been censored and banned by digger. It appears to many of us that digger is in fact just a mouthpiece for the dems. I’m guessing digger gets some pretty good, “donations” from Vermonts far left loons.

  2. I was at the session where the speaker refused to allow discussion on S-55. During a break, I spoke with my rep, who has never seen an anti-gun bill that he didn’t love. (I ran against him in 2014, but in this gerrymandered district, I lost.) When I brought up the strong link between these school shootings, high rate of veteran suicides and the use of certain anti-depressant drugs, he admitted that the pharmaceutical industry puts far more money into politics than NRA ever dreamed of, and nothing could be done about it. He assured me that there would be no further anti gun bills. I really believe that, especially after seeing the lady outside the Statehouse carrying a sign saying “Thank you governor Scott for a good beginning.” Scott gave in to the wishes of a New York billionaire.

  3. Facebook = Hatebook…….the garbage and massive, massive propaganda put on the site will ruin your mind if you follow it. I think it’s a propagandists dream come true, I’ve had so many times when out with people, who’s evening gets’ totally disturbed by a facebook feed….usually some dumb political propaganda, to which if they investigated with any openness, they’d find it’s a half truth at best.

  4. Vermont digger is a publication not an elected official, that being said, digger seems to ban commenters who are conservative. Digger enjoys non-profit status and should lose that status. They are just another far left leaning mouthpiece for the dems.

    • In case you weren’t aware digger is form the left,so rather than present opposing ideas, thought they just did away with the commentary,much as Mr. governor is doing.
      Rather like many reactions of the Left,much like a five year old plugging it’s ears and saying na,na,na,na I can’t hear you,there now it’s all better.

    • I left VT digger for that reason. They beg for money, stifle free speech by the omission of conservative comments or facts presented by conservatives and they allow freedom to liberal commenters. Reading the bios of their reporters demonstrates the left ideology forced on it’s readers verified by the backgrounds and educations of the staff. The moderators of the comments section are left leaning and can not allow the free flow of ideas or corrections to the fake news or false statements presented by the left ideologues. The idiot Danziger is allowed and probably encouraged to disparage President Trump with pathetic drawings passed off as political commentary every day. As I see it, the problem with True North is that more people need to see it.We have a major job ahead of us to turn this state around by proving that liberalism/progressive is dangerous to free people everywhere.

    • Vermont Digger censors profusely. I have many comments censored, I have a compilation of hundreds of censors. It was so bad we could predict which ones they would take out. We reached out to many in the press to report this, but nobody, nobody would report. Also Front Porch Forum does massive censoring. I would not believe it if I hadn’t experienced it a hundred times, minimum. Also while you can talk about the democratic party, or the republican party, I was told that all the moderators were informed if I state anything about the Green Mountain Party my comments will be erased. I have this in writing no less. Then there is the less obvious censorship, no “this article doesn’t make sense”…..when it just doesn’t fit their narrative. When you look at the humor, you’ll clearly see where their heart is. The scary part is….many people believe it is unbiased. I offered to write for them, but alas…no response. Vermont is in such ideological and informational isolation it’s really, really shocking. Traveling down the east coast this February was refreshing, the radio was so much more open….and this is on the liberal east coast. The socialist teachings and propaganda in this state require hip waders.

      • Hip waders at a minimum. Sadly I can say VT is lost. I poured me heart and soul into it for a good part of my life, finally I just had to cut my losses and depart. I’m much happier, and more importantly my entire family is. Not to mention my wallet is much heavier without all the taxes and feed. Just trying to get the rest of our extended family out in time.

        When I got my new drivers license my jaw nearly hit the floor. A 8 year license (enhanced I might add) cost me $25. That same license in Vermont $102 (Vt is only good for 4 years at a cost of $51)

        The list goes on.

    • You are correct, I stopped getting Vermont Digger. They changed their comment policies so I left.

    • Haven’t touched them since they went to discus. I agree with Matt for the past several years they have become a loud speaker for the Dems/Progs. You can tell from the left leaning headlines. They used to be good. Not so much anymore. You could have a good discussion concerning article, with folks that may have opposing views. No longer. I swing by to read the commentaries from time to time and nearly vomit when I see the VTNEA banners all over the place.

      Take a look at their 990’s they are hoarding cash now.

    • Matt, that’s a great idea. If you act like lobbyist you should have to follow the lobbyist rules. Many of us have been limited in our posts too. I made one comment early morning that hey, this story looks like an ad for such and such union. Because there were ads all around the story. Came back around 10 am. My post was not ever put up, all the ads were down. Huh. I think it was a story about Lara Sorbel (sp?) and State Employees union ads. It would be a great study to find out a correlation between lobbyists and funding for Vermont Digger. The book The Smear is a great investigative journal piece in how our “press” have become operating arms of the DNC.

  5. The governor is a self proven liar who is readily willing to lie to the people of Vermont,violate his oath,violate Vermont’s Constitution art 16,13,the federal Second and now the First amendments. There is no low to low for the liar,beyond time for the governor to go.

  6. Kudos to Jay Diaz and the VT ACLU for defending the rights of Vermonters against what seems to be a Vermont Governor out of control. I was at a meeting of one Vermont firearm organization during Phil Scott’s campaign for Governor and Mr Scott made his pro gun position clear and unambiguous. He was not going to be signing anti gun bills should he be elected. For his administration to hide public comments on the Governor’s state Facebook page he disagrees on is unconstitutional, IMO.

    At the signing of the 3 bills at the statehouse the Governor tried to wiggle out of responsibility, to deny lying, and to obfuscate by saying his signature would not take guns out of people’s hands. I find that statement and his signing of these bills offensive and dangerous to law abiding Vermonters who have an unalienable right to self defense by whatever means is appropriate to the situation at the time. With regard to magazine capacity, no one has the right to deprive a law abiding Vermonter from using how ever much ammunition is needed to defend themselves and their families, their homes, towns, cities, and state. Any prejudged, read prejudiced, limitations set by a government can not take into account one’s need at the time and on scene. In life or death situations, larger magazine capacity may be life saving. Who would want to be limited to a smaller capacity magazine, inadequate for the stuation, when the determination to limit to that particular capacity was made arbitrarily by a legislator sitting at a desk who can have no knowledge of the circumstances or dangers being faced at the time?

    As important, limiting magazine capacity has the effect of limiting available firearm choice because many firearms are only manufactured and sold with magazines of a capacity which exceeds the Vermont law’s limit. So limiting magazine capacity has taken firearms out of people’s hands by limiting their availability. A despicable law, indeed!

    • Take a page out of the Democratic playbook and ignore the new ‘laws’. I do.
      Nobody has the guts to do anything about it.

    • I was born in Vermont and have lived here for over 60 years. I see only one solution to ridding this state of the liberal/progressive control of the legislature. We should vote all of them into office. Let them run everything into the ground. Let them control every aspect of our lives, let them break the bank and spend the state further into oblivion, let them break us all down. It is the only way to finally wake people up We are unable to undo the indoctrination from our institutions, we are unable to break the stranglehold of the progressive liberal in Vermont because they are mostly implants from other places. Let them destroy Vermont just like the places they escaped from. While I wish there was another way, I just don’t see it. We have a governor who has spent 16 years with the people he has to oppose now. I say give them everything. It;s the only way to make everyone move or reject them. When things get so bad and no one is left to pay for all the social engineering the people will finally revolt. II hope I have time to see it happen.

      • It’ll happen the next recession going to crush VT. Take a look at CT’s fiscal mess and you can see where VT is going to be in a few years.

      • Jeezum! If we did what you are suggesting, there won’t be any Vermonters left in the entire state. We’ll all be driven out and only wealthy out-of-staters will be able to afford to live here!

        • Jerry Mullen, 23 of the 30 Vermont senators are from out of state. The Vermont house is similar. While Vermonters were sleeping and too busy to care, our state has been hijacked by 2nd class ego driven progressives from other places. Why should anyone care how many Vermonters are left living here? The state is being run by out of state money and people who have no connection to Vermont who have come here to control you from cradle to grave, take your money for redistribution to people wanting free government handouts and to put in place the liberal indoctrination policies at our schools and institutions. If you or anyone has a better plan lets hear it. Right now you and Vermont are under the control of the government’s liberal/progressive ideology and until we allow them to fully destroy this state and wake others up to the destruction of Vermont apparently nothing will change.

  7. I left comments on posts that were subsequently deleted. I do not have screen shots but now I know to do that in the future. I was livid when I saw my comments were gone but at the same time I knew my point was striking a nerve, hence why the posts were removed. If there is a way to go back into history logs to find the deleted posts, it would be helpful to know how.

  8. I have no need to post negative comments to the Jackwagon’s Facebook page. I’ve taken action and my private property is now a Sanctuary for the free purchase and sale of private property of all types. Since this State has decided to ignore some laws because they don’t like them, I’ve decided to do the same. I’d like to see somebody attempt to stop me.

  9. Governor Scott jumped off a “political Cliff” in April, when he signed the leftist motivated anti-gun bills, Hey Governor what have they accomplished thus far? Nothing.

    So now it sounds like the Governor can’t handle the ” heat ” from his constituents that he promised one thing an then did just the opposite (Flip Flop Phil).

    So I hope that the ACLU finds that he and his staffer have been deleting “Negative” comments. Spineless.

    Hey, Governor how are your new Progressive / Democrat friends supporting you on you No New Tax Plan? Yup get ready taxpayers. Flip Flop Phil!

    • It is unfortunate that during this gubernatorial campaign I have been blocked from bringing past interviews and information from those interviews from Keith Stern’s page.

      Keith is currently running as a republican for the office of governor of Vermont but in the past he was going to run as a Democrat.

      He also claims to be a supporter of the Second Amendment but in searching past articles I see no mention of the rights of gun owners or him speaking out against any new gun laws.

      I believe the first time I saw him mention guns was when he decided he was running against Phil Scott in 2017 as a Democrat.

      Because I raised as he’s issues I am not allowed to post on his pages.

      I believe if we are going to have candidates running for governor we need to know everything about them and if it offends them to hear the truth then we certainly don’t need them as a governor.

      • You should search how long he’s stood by the constitution, that would give you a good idea of this thoughts. But then you aren’t interested in finding the truth, it’s a massive smear campaign ala Alinsky school of thought. You’re on every site all over the state spewing the same comments that don’t make sense. If one stands by the constitution, it’s a pretty safe bet they might be a good representative.

Comments are closed.