A petition has been filed against Missouri State Representative Rebecca Roeber. Jeffrey Carey, a Lee’s Summit attorney, says that he posted comments on Roeber’s town hall Facebook page to engage his 34th district representative in a discussion of issues, including charter and public schools in Lee’s Summit. Carey’s comments were then “hidden from view from other users of the Town Hall forum,” as stated in the petition. The petition also states that Roeber and her husband, Rick, “engaged in a practice of systematically hiding the comments made by the plaintiff.”
The petition cites examples of Carey’s comments on the page, other users noticing that comments appeared to have been hidden, and direct discussion between Carey and Rick Roeber about if and why the comments would continue to be hidden on the page.
“This isn’t an acceptable practice,” Carey told the Tribune on why he had filed the suit. He said he hopes that this will help keep online discussions free, open and fair.
When contacted for comment, Roeber sounded upbeat but said she wasn’t able to fully discuss the matter at this time.
“We are sure that we are going to be vindicated when this is all said and done,” she said.
According to Facebook’s own website, the town hall feature is designed “to help build civically engaged communities and make it easier for people to have a voice in government.” The social media network created the town hall to help people follow and contact their own representatives and government agencies. Facebook’s terms of services do not specifically address town hall forums or any policies for constituent comments, though public pages on the website are often moderated by an administrator (including hiding or deleting comments) to ensure relevant or peaceful discussion.
The suit was filed by Carey in the Jackson County Court in Independence on Sept. 18. Roeber filed an answer on Oct. 6 that admits she has used Facebook in the manner described by Carey but denies that there was any systematic hiding of comments. A bench trial has been scheduled for Nov. 13.