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Critic of Mayor Coogan threatens to sue for being blocked on Facebook



In an email obtained by Fall River Reporter, a person by the name of William Katz has alerted Fall River mayor Paul Coogan and city administrator Aitken that if a block of his Facebook profile “Will Katz” is not immediately removed, he will be taking the matter to court.

Stating that he is a “journalist and government transparency activist that has spent a significant amount of time learning and collecting information about local government in Fall River and Bristol County,” Katz claims in his email that he has made comments on both the Official City of Fall River Facebook page as well as the official Facebook page of Mayor Coogan and that his comments were deleted, and he was blocked from both pages. Katz goes on further to state that the City of Fall River Media Relations web page “expressly lists FRG-TV and the Official City of Fall River Facebook Page as community resources available for the media.”

Katz claims that his comments, questions and opinions related to Coogan and corporation counsel Alan Rumsey’s alleged decisions to obstruct and withhold production of public records of the recent DCM investigation were the reason for him being blocked from the pages.

Fall River Reporter spoke with Mayor Coogan today where he expressed his concern that the profile does not represent an actual person, and that itself makes a difference of who has access to the aforementioned Facebook pages.

“I’m not sure if this person is even who they say they are. It has all the makings of a fake profile.” said Coogan.

Coogan stated that he has partnered with corporation counsel and that blocking the Katz account from the two Facebook pages is not a violation of any First Amendment rights.

The mayor said that in correspondence with Katz, “or whoever it is”, he invited the individual to meet face to face so that he could authenticate that it was a true constituent who was behind the profile, but Katz has refused to do so.

“I am open to meet with anyone who has questions or concerns and I offered to meet this person, but they are not willing to do so.” said Coogan.

Katz stated in his email that if the Facebook block is not immediately removed, he intends to “commence litigation to protect and vindicate my constitutional rights by pursuing legal action using remedies afforded by 42 USC 1983 to include declaratory and injunctive relief as well as monetary damages.”

The blocking of members of the public by elected officials has been a hot topic in recent years as Facebook and other social media platforms have become a primary way for community leaders to share information with constituents.

The Fourth Circuit of Appeals ruled in 2019 that Facebook or social media pages that are designated as official accounts of the elected officials cannot block people from the pages because of the opinions they have.

Fall River Reporter has reached out to William Katz for comment but did not receive a response before this story was published.

Primary correspondent for the Greater Fall River area, Jess focuses on human interest stories and investigations into political corruption. She is a former fill-in host and digital contributor at The Howie Carr Show, former host of The Jessica Machado Show and SouthCoast Tonight on WBSM in New Bedford, former blogger at The Herald News and a former fill-in host at WSAR in Fall River.

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