Charlotte government accounts no longer blocking, muting people on Twitter

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The mayor, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and Charlotte Fire are no longer blocking and muting users on Twitter.

City officials said that as part of its new social media policies, users will no longer be blocked or muted by government accounts.

Last week, the city of Charlotte uses social media to interact with thousands of people every day, but there are hundreds of people who can't interact with some of the city's accounts on Twitter.

There are two ways to shut down conversation on Twitter.

One way is to get blocked, ending interactions on both sides and the other way is to get muted, which means the Twitter account owner can’t see the other person’s posts.

After requesting Twitter records, reporter Joe Bruno found that Mayor Jennifer Roberts had 20 people blocked and 35 muted in June.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department had 42 Twitter accounts blocked and 118 muted.

The Charlotte Fire Department has two accounts and had 5 users blocked.

That's a total of 220 users.

This is a potential First Amendment violation, according to Jonathan Jones with the N.C. Open Government Coalition.

“Public officials need to understand when they use social media, they are creating forums,” Jones said.

Last month a federal judge in Virginia ruled a politician committed "a cardinal sin under the First Amendment" for blocking a constituent.

Jones said the case will likely be decided by the Supreme Court but elected officials and city accounts need to be open and transparent.

A spokesperson for Roberts said accounts were originally cut off because of threatening language and all of the accounts have been unblocked and unmuted.

Jones said while dealing criticism is expected, strong words aren't necessarily an excuse.

“There are other means or consequences for that speech,” Jones said.

The users blocked and muted by these accounts range from constituents to celebrities.

As of June, Roberts had Franklin Graham muted.

CMPD had the clothing brand, Calvin Klein, blocked and the accounts of Ed Sheeran and NASCAR muted.

The city said that some of the users blocked and muted by CMPD may have happened before the police department had the username.

Roberts’ Twitter block and mute list contained several Charlotte residents. The most well-known person muted by the mayor was Franklin Graham.

Charlotte Fire Department has two Twitter handles, @CharlotteFire and @CharlotteFD. Founder of Twitpic Noah Everett was blocked by CFD along with a firefighter in Missouri and three accounts with sexual themes.

CMPD has several Charlotte residents, celebrities and news outlets blocked and muted including Gaston Gazette reporter Diane Turbyfill and the brand Calvin Klein. Among the accounts muted by CMPD include Ed Sheeran, NASCAR, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

A city official said it’s unclear which accounts were blocked and muted by CMPD because police inherited the handle from a man who moved out of the city.

A spokesperson for CMPD did not respond for comment.

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