ATLANTA – Advocates for civil discourse in public policy debates have long bemoaned the proliferation of profanity and other negative comments on social media sites.

Capitol Beat News Service
This story also appeared in Capitol Beat News Service

Now, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is trying to do something to clean up its social media accounts.

The agency’s board was briefed Tuesday on a proposed rule setting guidelines for the “moderation” of comments posted on its third-party social media websites.

The rule would allow the DNR to remove comments not related to the topic of the social media post or that contain profanity.

In subjecting social media posts to such scrutiny, the agency would be creating a “limited public forum,” a concept the U.S. Supreme Court has declared does not violate Americans’ constitutional right to free speech.

“People get concerned about the First Amendment,” Kate Iannuzzi, the DNR’s deputy executive counsel, told board members Tuesday. “What we are doing is specifically allowed by the First Amendment. … All we’re trying to do is keep [social media posts] on topic and ask the people not to use profanity.”

The proposed rule doesn’t indicate what prompted the DNR to want to limit the content it allows on social media.

But the agency tends to draw intense criticism over issues that come under its purview. Lately, those include Georgia Power’s plans to leave in place coal ash from some of its closed ash ponds and a proposed titanium mine near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

The Board of Natural Resources is scheduled to vote on the rule at its next meeting Oct. 26.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Dave Williams is bureau chief for Capitol Beat News Service, a service of the Georgia Press Education Foundation.

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