Those of you that follow my blog regularly know that I and other individuals were recently blocked by the individuals managing the official Twitter account for the El Paso Police Department. As you may know, my blog Twitter account was blocked by the team managing the police department. A few days ago I found out that my blog’s Twitter account had been unblocked. This surprised me because no one notified me nor did the City notify others as far as I know. Apparently, my account and others were quietly unblocked in the last few days.
On July 19, I posted “Is Police Department Criminally Blocking Twitter Access”. In that post, I argued that what the police department was doing was violating the Texas Public Information Act. What precipitated my blocking was asking the Twitter managers what their policy was for blocking accounts. Instead of a response, I was blocked from accessing the police department’s Twitter account. I had asked the question because various individuals had reported their accounts were being blocked by the account managers without an explanation.
In my blog post, I pointed out that what was happening was wrong. I filed two open records requests asking for the City’s policy on blocking users on social media and who were the individuals that were managing the Twitter account. The responsive documents conclusively proved that the police department’s Twitter account was an official City account.
As is my custom, I followed up on some pending items. In this case I had gathered more information that I was going to use to show that the blocking by the police department was wrong. As I prepared to write my piece, I checked to see if I was still blocked. I was not.
At this point I do not know if I am the only one whose block has been removed. However, I suspect that because of the publicity, the police department removed the blocks from various accounts.
Although, I am glad that the police department has now accepted that what they were doing was wrong, if in fact, others were unblocked as well, it shows the duplicity of the managers of the police department’s Twitter account.
Instead of responding about their actions, and notifying individuals as to why they were being blocked, the police department, instead, quietly unblocked me, and possibly others. Now, when you go to the Twitter account, you will notice that the police department has added a link to the city’s official Social Media Policy. You can find it right under the department’s logo and name on the left-hand side of the screen.
Obviously, internally, the city realized the liability they had on their hands and dealt with the potential problem. However, the Twitter account managers, although chastised, still decided to quietly unblock the accounts hoping no one will notice. I did.
As for those of us that were complaining about a city department violating basic government transparency doctrine, we now know that the City of El Paso is watching what we say online and on social media and paying attention when enough us point out the problems. The City did the right thing by unblocking Twitter account holders that were asking simple questions about their government.