2013-11-08 / Front Page

FB page seeks to stay neutral

Sean P. Milligan
Contributing Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – The South Portland Community Page on Facebook has struggled to stay apolitical. Its moderator, Kandi-Lee Hoy, secretary for the South Portland Republican Municipal Committee and South Portland resident, has remained active as page moderator. Hoy deletes posts she views as politically biased and has even banned one person from the page for such activity.

Creation of the page was first discussed by the South Portland Republican Municipal Committee after elections in 2010, coming to fruition soon after.

Following an unsuccessful run for a seat in the Maine Legislature, Jake Myrick filled the position of South Portland Municipal Committee chairman. Myrick felt one of the reasons he didn’t win the District 123 seat was because he wasn’t in touch with the people he wished to represent.

“I ran for a state seat and lost and I felt one of the reasons I may not have done so well is I wasn’t totally connected to the issues of my town,” Myrick said. “When I became chairman I wanted to be more connected to my constituents. I wanted to know people and what their issues were.”

Creating a Facebook page was the committee’s solution. By having a page that is free from politics and issues with strong political connotation, the committee believed that local council members and other community leaders would have open access to the real problems of the city.

The page doesn’t display the name or logo of the committee in any way, and primarily posts community activities that range from city council meetings to high school sporting events. Occasionally, Hoy will create posts that are politically informational such as a link to sample ballots. Hoy believes this type of information is important to all citizens regardless of their political affiliation.

In an effort to maintain the South Portland Community Page’s non-political nature Hoy monitors posts and comments, deleting topics that, in her opinion, would be considered politically debatable.

Although posts such as, “I have asked that you refrain from posting political items…I just banned someone for doing it again. Seems left wing political people are trying to take over this page…” make the neutrality debatable, Hoy admits she has to restrain from breaking her own rules.

“After (The Sentry) sent me a message, I kind of chuckled and turned to one of my sons, and I said ‘You know, he wanted to know what my biggest challenge is,’” Hoy said. “I told my son, ‘The biggest challenge for not getting political posts on there is myself.’ Sometimes I see stuff and I think, oh gosh, everyone should know about that.”

The moderator maintains that posts like the one addressed to “left wing political people” are justified, saying that so far she has only had problems with posters with liberal agendas. Posters with political intentions from the right wing would meet the same repercussions.

According to Hoy, followers have been good-natured about the intentions of the page. Most offending users discontinue posting political statements after Hoy asks them to stop and their posts have been deleted.

Since the South Portland Community Page’s initial inception, Myrick said he’s only had pedestrian interactions on the site, using it more to get in touch with the needs of South Portland.

To critics who say that deleting political posts infringes on their First Amendment rights, Hoy defends her own rights.

“You know, it’s a private page. I’m not a government entity,” Hoy said. “When it’s the decision of a private group to do a non-political page, if we were a government group it would be an issue.”

Although Myrick originally aimed for the page to be an unbiased, open discussion of local issues, that goal is difficult to achieve without some form of political discourse. Hoy has done a good job keeping the page mostly apolitical but this has limited the interactions between posters, he said.

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