Should Publicly Funded Entities Be Allowed To Block Watchdog Groups On Twitter?

In our earlier post on “tweetblocking being the new junkpunch on Twitter” we introduced you to a watchdog handle, @FixWMATA, that was blocked by the publicly funded entity it was watchdogging: the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

And we’re wondering if publicly funded entities should be allowed to block watchdog groups – or anybody for that matter – on Twitter.

And we’re not the only ones asking.

According to the Maryland Gazette, the @WMATA blocked @FIXwmata (real name, Chris Barnes) after he “got a little snarky” on Twitter. And guess what? Looks like he’s not the only one:

The Twitter account @FireDrGridlock was also blocked from WMATA when it changed its avatar, which pokes fun at The Washington Post’s Dr. Gridlock.

Elayne Burke of Washington, D.C., follows Barnes and said she was once blocked by WMATA unintentionally. When she asked why she was blocked, WMATA said it was a “mistake” and unblocked her, Burke said.

When asked by the DCist about its social media policy for blocking Twitter followers, Lynn Bowersox, WMATA’s Assistant General Manager for Customer Service, Communications and Marketing, responded:

“Our Twitter feed is primarily to provide Metro service information for riders. Violating reasonable boundaries of professional, civil discourse with profanity, personal attacks and inaccurate speculation is not a service to riders.”

But Barnes has lots of followers for a reason:

And . . . how does Barnes reading their tweets affect the WMATA readers exactly? It’s not like he was tweeting from their account – but he was retweeting and responding to what he felt were inaccuracies.

And, as a taxpayer and a rider, doesn’t he have the right to? If not, someone add that right somewhere lickety split.

Anyway, we asked WMATA to elaborate on its curious explanation for blocking Barnes and will update when they answer.

What do you think? Is blocking a watchdog group fair play or sour grapes? And should it be allowed? If you don’t think it should be, feel free to tweet them to #UnblockFIXwmata.

(Image from Shutterstock)