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Using Social Media to Hold Public Officials Accountable


Wednesday, November 15, 2017   

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Social media is for more than just keeping in touch with friends and family and sharing funny memes.

It also can be used to hold a public official's feet to the fire.

Open government advocates are urging people to adjust to modern communication by doing more with their social media accounts.

Speaking on The Rotunda podcast, Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, says everyone should be following his or her elected representatives and engage with them in person and online.

"Ask questions,” she urges. “Make your voice heard. That's not hard anymore.

“It used to be hard because the only way to really do it was to write a letter, call your city commission. I don't know if you've tried to call Congress lately but you never get through, but now you've got social media."

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 66 percent of social media users in the U.S. have engaged in civic or political activities through social media, with methods such as encouraging others to vote and liking, posting or commenting on politically related content.

Petersen says the purpose of Florida's nationally recognized open government laws is to provide citizens with an opportunity to oversee government.

She says gaining access to public records is not just a role for media organizations. Average citizens also should be making demands for transparency.

"You just have to know sort of how to make your request, and I think one thing that people can do is make the request, push back against it,” she states.

“As I said, the foundation will help, to the best of our ability, give you information and advice and guidance."

The foundation's toll free hotline for answers and assistance regarding public records and Florida's sunshine laws is (800) 337-3518.

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