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Port of Moses Lake ends social media comments

| January 11, 2022 1:05 AM

MOSES LAKE — People will no longer be able to post a comment to any of the Port of Moses Lake’s social media sites.

During a regular meeting Monday, commissioners overseeing the Port of Moses Lake voted unanimously to end public comments on the port’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn feeds to make it easier for the port to preserve public records.

“Most of our clients do not allow comment on their social media sites,” said Richard Davis, an attorney with Chmelik, Sitkin & Davis, the Bellingham-based law firm which represents a number of Washington ports, including the Port of Moses Lake. “If you’re going to allow comments, frankly, it creates a public records burden to preserve all of those records.”

According to Loretta St. Andre, business intelligence analyst for the port, the port has temporarily contracted with Durham, North Carolina-based software service company ArchiveSocial to back up the port’s social media posts and maintain all of the comments made so far.

The halt to social media comments came into effect with the Monday morning vote.

According to Ephrata Mayor Bruce Reim, a specialist in preserving public records for insurance Clear Risk Solutions, which specializes in underwriting insurance for cities, school districts, countries and tribal governments in Washington, public comments on social media sites become public records once they are made, but most governments opt to closely manage their social media accounts rather than prevent comments outright.

“I don’t know of other cities doing that,” he said.

Grant County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Kyle Foreman said the GCSO treats all public comments as public records, maintains an archive, and closely monitors responses to the office’s various social media channels, including the dedicated K-9 feeds.

“It takes a lot of post management, and there’s an understanding of those who post, if you post it, you have to manage it,” Foreman said.

Moses Lake Police Department Chief Kevin Fuhr, who is active on social media, said he and other senior MLPD leaders hide or remove offensive or threatening comments, and all city social media sites are archived as public records.

It can be challenging if a social media post prompts a lot of intense reaction, Fuhr said, but most MLPD posts don’t.

“It doesn’t take a lot of time,” Fuhr said. “Most of the time, the posts we put on there for information, and they’re not generating angry responses.”

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