Monday, July 25, 2011

Is Cleveland's improper use of social media ordinance unconstitutional?

Cleveland is known for many things. Both famous and renown. They may also soon be known as one of the first large cities in the United States to ban "destructive" social media "Flash Mobs".

According to Wikipedia, a Flash Mob "is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment and/or satire. A flash mob may be organized via social media, texting, email, or other electronic platforms.

According to Cleveland's City Council website, the new "ordinance would focus on intended use of social media to cause public disruption". Cleveland's City Council passed the law last week to combat Flash Mobs or what others may call "Tweet Ups".

What if there is a national political convention or another large event in Cleveland and social media is utilized to gather interested people to express their opinions? What will happen when the Baltimore Ravens or Pittsburgh Steelers come to town for their annual AFC North games against the Cleveland Browns and people utilize social media to talk trash about the game? One person's Flash Mob is another person's Tweet Up. How will the law be enforced?

Does Cleveland have a special ordinance on the books against utilizing a phone, a radio or television program, etc... to address the issues that this law is trying to combat? Does Cleveland's City Council need a refresher course on the First Amendment, Common Sense, etc...?

I believe this new ordinance is an over-reaction. The best course of action is to enforce the current laws on the books. The ink has barely dried and the ACLU has already sought to repeal it. I hope that Cleveland's City Council sees the error of its ways before tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees are wasted defending this ill-conceived law.

To learn more about these issues you may contact me at www.shearlaw.com.

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