The public may not be able to comment on any Los Angeles Department of Public Health social media site, but they can find an herbal remedy that claims to cure herpes, AIDS, cancer, and warts – all in one bottle!
Ironically, the remedy does not claim to cure or prevent COVID.
YES! Updated boosters provide added protection from fading immunity from a previous COVID-19 vaccine or booster received before last August. Boosters are especially recommended for adults over 65 years old.
For more information, visit https://t.co/UVkFi7uO8G pic.twitter.com/cPq2GIW8cV
— LA Public Health (@lapublichealth) March 6, 2023
Last year, the LADPH shut down all of the public comment sections of all its social media sites – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. It also appears they have “scrubbed” all comments made prior to that point.
Almost all, that is – the review section on Facebook is still open for public posting. For the most part, the posts are ads that also happen to give the department “highly recommends.” There are a few regular human “you’re really bad at your job” reviews that do not highly recommend, but the rest tout investing in crypto and various versions of the aforementioned herbal cure-all.
It is quite humorous, but for an agency that banned all public comments and seems to take its social media presence very seriously one would think the LADPH would be at least somewhat concerned that their public health site features ads for absurd quack medicines. Why they did not “scrub” these posts when they memory holed actual comments from the actual public is unclear, though it can be assumed that the accompanying 5-star ratings – which boost the overall average figure significantly, giving the highly controversial agency a 4.1 rating now – played a role in the decision to leave them be.
Or, more likely, they’re just idiots.
During the pandemic, the LADPH was one of the most tyrannical and incompetent public health agencies in the nation and did untold damage to millions of Southland residents and businesses – here are just a few examples from the Globe:
When you visit any of the department’s social media sites you will find various bits of information – some accurate, some propaganda, some relevant, some – like a two-year-old YouTube video featuring department chief Barbara Ferrer telling people how to clean a cloth mask – both irrelevant and self-contradictory.
On the sites, you will still not only find case rates, safety hints, and very sketchy blather related to COVID, but also other public health “information” such as a reminder that teens can access free abortion services without parental consent.
It seems the Twitter site specifically does allow certain people to comment – i.e. anyone specifically mentioned in the agency tweet they are commenting on, occurrences of which are few and far between. That feature is a bit rare, but it may have been inspired by the American Public Health Association having a similar policy. Note – the agency’s positions for the most part mirror those of the APHA – you can see for yourself that the crazy apple doesn’t fall far from the manipulation tree.
And just last week, when Ferrer held her weekly press briefing (yup – she’s still doing those), one reporter asked her why she was wearing a mask in a room with six – presumably vaccinated (though not really) – people, she became very defensive, snippily responding that it is “inappropriate” to ask someone about mask status.
Clearly, Ferrer has no idea what the words “astonishingly vile hypocrisy” mean and that the mood inside the agency is still one of panicked incoherent incompetence.
In August of last year, the agency decided to end public comments, placing this notice on all it social pages:
This irked a Los Angeles County resident (she prefers to remain anonymous and the Globe will honor her request), who had been following the agency closely. Like so many others, she had been commenting on their actions and then wondered why the agency would seemingly arbitrarily cut off an important avenue for public discussion.
“It defeats the purpose of letting the public engage on important issues,” she said.
She then filed a public records request, asking for information regarding the hows and whys of the decision.
Eventually, the County Counsel’s office replied that there did indeed exist “responsive” (read, relevant to the topic of the question) documents but that she could not see them. The county claimed the records fell under a pair of exemptions to the public records law – they were either attorney-client privileged and/or they were part of the “deliberative process.” The final rejection letter to her stated:
“…the public interest served by not disclosing the record
clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record.” Some of
the records you are seeking contain private, nonpublic information, such as cell
phone numbers or other sensitive, proprietary and/or confidential information.
Such information is exempt from disclosure and will not be disclosed.
First amendment experts say the agency is within its rights to shutter public comments, but are less certain the LADPH doesn’t have to tell the public why.
David Loy, legal director of the First Amendment Coalition, said that, legally, a government agency can choose whether or not to allow comments on its social media feeds. If it does so it must allow for every viewpoint to be expressed – in other words, open means open for all, not just for positive commenters, and closed means closed for all, not just negative commenters.
Why the agency is refusing to explain its reasoning is a matter of concern. California’s constitution specifically allows for public records access and the standard to claim an exemption should be to be as high as possible.
“The deliberative exemption is supposed to be narrow and limited,” Loy said. The risk of the exemption is that it can be asserted to “hide the information the public very much has an interest in.”
To pierce the claimed exemption, the wondering resident would have to file a lawsuit, Loy said.
Considering the actions of the agency during the pandemic, it is highly highly highly likely that the comments were shut off because they were mostly negative and making the LADPH sad and embarrassed.
For example, the Employment Development Department – which managed to lose $40 billion to fraud while simultaneously failing to pay tens of thousands of legitimate claimants properly during the pandemic – once asked the internet to be nicer to them.
It did not go well.
Comments such as “EDD’s tone-deafness and gall at posting the above tweet would be comical if people’s lives weren’t being destroyed by their hands…” and “ …We’re trying to feed our children & keep a roof over their heads. We are caring for loved ones and trying not to drown. You’ll need to forgive us if we aren’t as well-behaved as your policy would like us to be” and “Holy SHIT this is incredible. Did they just basically say “stop being angry in our Twitter posts” and afterwards direct us to automated help lines?????” appeared on the EDD Twitter feed within minutes – for a deeper look at the issue, see here.
To its credit, the EDD has not shuttered its social media public comment features.
As to the LADPH policy, both Loy and David Greene of the Electronic Frontier Foundation said that while it may be legal it is wrong.
“As an organization, we are always in favor of providing more opportunities for better engagement,” Loy said.
“Social media is a valuable forum for public interaction,” Greene said, adding that the agency citing the deliberative exemption is “ridiculous” in these circumstances.
The county resident said she is not sure what her next steps, if any, will be, but said the issue is bigger than just the pandemic.
“Government agencies operate by consent,” she said. “And if they don’t allow public comments they will always think they are doing the right thing and that is wrong.”
Other than to point back to its comment policy statement (seen above), the agency declined to answer the following questions:
1 – Why did the department close “comments” on its SM platforms on Aug. 21, 2022?
2 – Was the department displeased with the comments being posted?
3 – A county resident filed a PRA request and, eventually, was told there are responsive records but they are not public as they are covered by either attorney-client privilege and/or the “deliberative” exception to the law. Can you offer a reason such a discussion would be privileged and/or covered by the exemption?
4 – State law is rather explicit in stating that when faced with such a decision regarding the deliberative exemption the public agency must, for lack of a better term, err on the side of transparency; in this case it seems that was not done – can you explain the reasoning?
5 – Did the agency leave up or remove comments made prior to august 21, 2022?
- Car Kill Switch Survives Thanks to Reps. Kiley, Kim, Garcia and 16 Other Republicans - December 4, 2023
- About Last Week…Flying Abortionists, Anyone? - December 3, 2023
- Impressions of an Evening: Newsom, DeSantis Square Off - November 30, 2023