“I have been told by our Facebook manager that he is allowed to remove comments that are extremely argumentative, uncivil, disrespectful and/or not factual."
These are the words of Joan Seppala, owner of The Independent newspaper, to justify the censorship of dissenting voices on the Facebook page "Better Livermore." The Facebook page is the online organizing effort of "Better Livermore," with the intent to completely mislead and misinform citizens of Livermore to undo the last four years of planning our downtown.
The administrators have deleted comments and banned members of the community from participating in future discussions. Though not incorrect that the owner of a Facebook page has the discretion to ban and delete comments, we expect better transparency and honesty from a journalist and owner The Independent newspaper.
Why do we expect this? Because the comments deleted and individuals banned are members of this community who would never be defined by that statement.
Unify Livermore's own Jake Anderson has had his comments removed and banned from the page. I have known Jake personally for as long as I can remember, we grew up together, and to imply that Jake is nothing but a model of what we define as a Livermore citizen. It is offensive to Jake, myself, and everyone who knows him. Joan should be ashamed to make such a statement and associate to a member of our community like Jake
For those who do not know Jake, here is a little bit about him. He is a loving husband and father, a teacher at Del Valle Continuation High School giving students their second, third, and fourth chances at educational success, an officer at Unify Livermore, a member of the City of Livermore's Planning Commission. I can go on but there may not be enough ink to print it all.
Other Livermore residents who have been banned include Bob and Gina Coomber. Bob Coomber, who is a current City Council member in Livermore, and his wife Gina are both supporters of the current downtown plan, but, more than that, they are supporters of honesty and transparency. They are vocal when they both feel that the public is being misled. Their integrity keeps them from sitting on the sidelines.
Another member is Steven Spedowfski, former Livermore City Council member, who has been nothing but honest throughout the process of developing Livermore's Downtown Plan.
What do all of these people have in common? They are speaking out against what "Better Livermore" is proposing with clear, honest, and factual information that goes against what "Better Livermore" wants you to know. So their solution is to remove them from the online conversation instead of having their ideas stand alongside with the ideas of "Better Livermore."
Censoring those you do not agree with is not the behavior the owner of Livermore's only newspaper should be taking. If she supports those policies for her online message, what kind of policies does she take in her newsroom? I worry transparency is not one.
If you find yourself banned, or your comments removed, please reach out to Unify Livermore on social media (facebook.com/unifylivermore) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and share your story.