Hannan voices support of social media guidelines for state lawmakers

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The Alaska Legislature is contemplating new advice and policies regarding social media use to cover its 60 members.

    The joint House-Senate Legislative Council unveiled its first draft of a new policy last month, but individual lawmakers voiced objections to the proposal, and further revisions are expected before a final policy is settled.

    Representative Sara Hannan serves as the Chair of the council, she provided an update on the status of the guidelines while on action line.

    "They're just in draft form, but what we are faced with is; across the nation, social media platforms provide the opportunity for people to interact, and legislators in their official capacity, as government entities, have an obligation to make sure that anything that they are providing as a public access doesn't infringe on citizens free speech opportunities to interact, the public square. The issues arise when that intersect between me on my own personal Facebook page, and me as a legislator on a Facebook page, and what kind of interactions you're having with the public," she said.

    Hannan said the state is behind the curve, but said the lines are not clear there have not been Supreme Court decisions on social media conduct.

    "We've got some federal rulings in different circuit courts affecting different regions of the US about it, and of course, in every one of those cases, there's a specific fact pattern of 'what did you do? what did you do as the elected? and what were the comments of the person that is challenging that legally and saying you've suppressed my free speech rights?

    I believe we have a need for guidelines, because we've had at least three lawsuits filed against seated members of the legislature in the last two years over social media interactions," she said. "So with that, when we don't have guidelines that help the elected members know where they what are the parameters, what are the guardrails of what they can and cannot do?"

    If a lawmaker runs an official legislative account on social media, the policy recommends that the lawmaker either prohibit all public comments or allow all comments, regardless of their content.

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