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Should SF politicians be allowed to block Twitter trolls? – SFGate

  • Board of Supervisors President London Breed is among city officials who are the subject of complaints about their use of social media. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle
  • Board of Supervisors President London Breed is among city officials who are the subject of complaints about their use of social media.

Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle

Board of Supervisors President London Breed is among city officials who are the subject of complaints about their use of social media.

Board of Supervisors President London Breed is among city officials who are the subject of complaints about their use of social media.

Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle

Should S.F. politicians be allowed to block Twitter trolls?

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Fielding angry phone calls and emails is routine for any elected official in San Francisco. But in the age of Twitter, citizens have an easier way to voice their displeasure.

Now it’s up to the city’s Sunshine Task Force to decide whether officials have to listen.

This week the task force will hear three complaints from citizens saying that department heads and politicians should not be allowed to shield themselves on social media. Two of those complaints are against Board of Supervisors President London Breed — one challenging her freedom to block Twitter trolls, the other saying she failed to provide a list of the accounts she’s blocked.

Angela Greben, who filed the first complaint against Breed, is a Sunnyvale resident who has requested Twitter block lists from public officials in several cities, including some in New York and Florida. She publishes some of the results on a blog.

“I’ve been submitting these requests for two years now,” said Greben, who has collected block lists from state health departments, law enforcement agencies and Supervisor Jane Kim. Greben also requested lists of people blocked or muted by Supervisor Mark Farrell, who said he doesn’t block anyone, which is “not that interesting,” Greben said.

Josh Wolf who filed the second complaint against Breed, asked for the supervisor’s blocked user list on March 14, and said he has yet to hear back from her office. Wolf is a member of the Sunshine Task Force, but said he will recuse himself from this decision.

The third complaint, filed against the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Services, for failing to respond on time to requests for tweets from the department’s director, Jeff Kositsky. The complainant, Dolores Clean, said Kositsky has prevented at least one Twitter user from reading his tweets on homelessness.

All three complaints cite a March ruling by the state Supreme Court over a legal fight that began eight years ago in San Jose, when the city refused to disclose personal texts and emails about a downtown real estate development. The high court ruled that information kept on private accounts or devices can be subject to public records laws.

Breed did not return calls seeking comment Friday. Kositsky said he’s unblocked the user who wrote the complaint against him, even though members of the Sunshine Task Force told him he didn’t have to.

“I’m a public figure, and people have a right to hear my opinion, and I’m sorry to the person I blocked,” he said.

As for the delay in getting the tweets, Kositsky said his department was short-staffed and that the request caused some confusion.

“This is a challenging question that comes up when people use Twitter for personal and public reasons,” he said.

— Rachel Swan

Email: cityinsider@sfchronicle.com, rswan@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @sfcityinsider @rachelswan

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