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Twitter Rules Rile Firefighters Union

By Mike Dunn, Jericka Duncan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Nutter Administration is clamping down on the use of Twitter and other social media outlets by city firefighters. The union says the mayor just can’t take tweets of criticism.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers on Wednesday issued a three-page set of social media guidelines for his department. Included is an explicit prohibition on posting anything that may bring “a member’s or the department’s reputation into question.”

Union Chief Bill Gault says the mayor simply wants to clamp down on criticism after Nutter decided to appeal the latest arbitration contract award.

“This is the mayor trying to quash any kind of negative criticism about him — the way he’s running the fire department, the way he’s running the city.”

Gault says because the restrictions govern off-duty activities, they infringe on the firefighter’s freedom of speech — and so the union is exploring a legal challenge.

“What they do in their personal time with their personal emails and Facebook and Twitters and whatever is completey none of anyone’s business. Firefighters and medics are still citizens. And they’re allowed to have an opinion. I see that exactly as an abridgment of constitutional rights.”

In response to our request for comment on the Fire Commissioner’s directive, the mayor’s Chief of Staff, Everett Gillison, issued a statement noting that the mayor last spring issued a social media code of conduct for all city workers. He said departmental heads are encouraged to use social media — quote — “in a way that best benefits the public.”

Gillison’s statement did not mention the memorandum from Ayers.

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