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The city of Rosemount wants to be your friend

Within the next month or so Rosemount will begin using social media websites to connect with residents. Through Facebook status updates and Twitter tweets the city hopes to keep residents apprised of what's going on around town.

The city will join other municipalities such as Brooklyn Park, Blaine and Mankato in having a presence on social media sites.

While it seems like a simple thing, the decision to go forward with the accounts was a bit sticky. There is little in the way of case law dealing with cities and social media and there are potential legal issues with how the sites are managed.

"Because the law is unsettled you could step into a minefield," communications director Alan Cox told the council.

Specifically, the city has to worry about Minnesota's record keeping requirements for cities and First Amendment considerations.

In his memo to the council Cox said generally speaking, it appears that Minnesota's record-keeping requirements would not take effect unless postings qualified as government data used in official transactions. For example, a public meeting

notice is posted officially at city hall. A posting on social media referring to the original information would not be considered original government data. If comments from the public were allowed, the comments generally would be considered government data and would fall under records retention requirements.

On the First Amendment issue Cox said cities that permit comments could be viewed as creating a public forum in which the city cannot discriminate by viewpoint. So the city could not remove posts.

In his memo to the council Cox said failure to adhere to the limits in decisions about whether to allow some but not all comments or to delete some comments but not others could turn the city pages into a public forum like a sidewalk in which no content can be edited. Vague statements on the page such as "posts may be deleted for any reason" or failure to enforce policies consistently could also result in the creation of a public forum.

City staff brought the issue to several of the city's commissions, including the recently formed youth commission. The group, which consists of Rosemount teenagers, said a presence on social media sites would be a good thing but suggested the city not allow comments.

The council ultimately decided not to allow comments but will review that decision after the sites have been up for a while.

The council hopes the sites will help keep residents informed. Cox said the city doesn't plan to replace any other forms of communication it puts out. He simply hopes to supplement what the city already does.

Cox said he would like to get accounts going on both Facebook and Twitter sometime within in the next month.

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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