Guam – If the U.S. Supreme Court has anything to say about it, Gov. Eddie Calvo’s use of a Facebook account may be government speech, regardless of content. On May 23, a high court memorandum and order addressed the difference between private and government speech relative to social media posts on the account of an elected public official. The Supreme Court order sprung from President Trump’s constant use of the Twitter account @realDonaldTrump.
According to the high court, “there may be situations in which it is difficult to tell whether a government entity is speaking on its own behalf or is providing a forum for private speech.”
However, the court states, “Private involvement in the formulation of the speech in question does not preclude the conclusion that it is government speech.”
This story attempts to draw distinctions in a social media situation involving the Governor of Guam.
Is Eddie Baza Calvo using his official capacity as Governor of Guam to endorse his right hand man Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio’s private political agenda? The answer may lie in Gov. Eddie Calvo’s Facebook page and how the page is being utilized by the governor.
The Facebook page in question is labeled “Governor Eddie Calvo”, and the “About” section lists Calvo as a “Government Official” and includes the governor’s official email address and website. A review of posts on what appears to be the official Facebook profile of the Guam governor shows official press releases and statements made in Calvo’s official capacity as governor.
The conundrum? The page is also used to publicly endorse GOP gubernatorial candidate Ray Tenorio and running mate Tony Ada’s BOTA Campaign. Tenorio presently serves as Calvo’s lieutenant governor. On October 14, the BOTA campaign rally was reportedly live-streamed through the governor’s Facebook page.
An October 31 campaign press release post, just days before the November 6th general election targets Tenorio’s opponent, Democratic nominee Lou Leon Guerrero, and her running mate, Joshua Tenorio. The release is hash-tagged #BIBABOTA, a clear endorsement of the GOP gubernatorial hopeful.
No clear lines are drawn to indicate which statements express the governor’s personal opinions versus his official capacity. So what’s the big deal? If it’s social media, does that constitute an ” official” government page?
It would appear the issue has already been determined by the US Supreme Court in its May 23 memorandum and order on President Trump’s social media accounts. The US Supreme Court thereby determines what constitutes government speech and private speech by considering whether a social media page is used to convey state messages and to what degree personal messaging is involved and to what effect. Using the high court’s method, one may come to the conclusion that Calvo’s Facebook page is government speech and that the medium is being used to promote a private political campaign. The high court’s line of reasoning seems to suggest that Calvo’s official page is government speech and that it is advertising someone else’s bid for election.