by Joseph S. Burns
Cleveland’s City Council recently passed an ordinance that would have banned the use of social media websites to organize what are known as “flash mobs.” When that legislation was vetoed by Mayor Frank Jackson, amid criticisms that it was unconstitutional and difficult to enforce, Cleveland’s City Council went back to work, this time crafting a new ordinance that would ban the use of computers and cell phones, rather than specific social media web-sites, to incite riots.
The new legislation, which carries penalties of up to six months in jail and fines of $1,000, is pending approval by Mayor Jackson, who said he will confer with the city’s law department before deciding whether to sign it into effect.
James Hardiman, the Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, believes that the new ordinance is flawed and will be challenged by the ACLU. Specifically, Hardiman said that the law, as proposed, may end up punishing those who arrange innocent gatherings that ultimately turn disorderly, and that it may result in the illegal search and seizure of computers and cell phones. The dispute over the new legislation is yet another example of the various ways in which social media continues to affect local governments.