The ACLU sued then-Gov. Paul LePage for censoring and blocking critical constituents from commenting on Facebook. Spencer Thibodeau, a sitting member of Portland’s City Council and mayoral candidate, apparently has engaged in similarly questionable, undemocratic practices.

Following Thibodeau’s recent votes against citizen initiatives for local clean elections and expanded ranked-choice voting, his campaign Facebook page, Spencer for Mayor of Portland, faced an onslaught of critical comments. Some cited Thibodeau’s ties to real estate developers, while others cited his tepid support for last year’s bond that would keep schools open. As soon as the comments came in, they seemingly disappeared.

I contacted several individuals whose comments vanished, including District 3 City Council candidate Layla Kargar. They informed me that their comments were still visible to them. However, to outside viewers, they were invisible.

Research revealed what seemingly transpired – Thibodeau’s campaign likely used Facebook’s “hide” option, which makes a comment visible only to Thibodeau’s team, the original commenter and the commenter’s Facebook friends. Unlike deleting comments – something that Bates student body President Ryan Lizanecz criticized Thibodeau for doing – hiding commenters tricks commenters into believing their posts are still public. The only trace of “hidden” comments is the tally of total comments. The discrepancy in visible comments versus comment totals was evident in many posts by Thibodeau’s team.

Thibodeau is an elected official, not just a candidate. Discreetly silencing constituents one claims to serve is unfitting of a sitting member of the City Council and someone hoping to be mayor of our progressive city.

Paul Foster

Portland

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