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Glen Cove's Proposed Code Of Conduct Sparks Debate Over Facebook & Free Speech

GLEN COVE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Lawmakers on Long Island are getting ready to vote on a controversial proposal, which involves whether the local government can dictate what its workers share on social media.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, freedom of expression has never been freer than it is online, but what you post can pose a problem in the workplace.

Following the lead of private companies, Glen Cove is about to launch its own Facebook page. But first, the mayor is drafting a code of conduct that would restrict publicly posted comments from city workers.

"We don't want them to put things up there that aren't correct, that are inaccurate in some way, that will mislead the public," Mayor Timothy Tenke said.

Nothing would be allowed that might "negatively affect the public perception of the city, office of the mayor or individual departments." But that has some city council members concerned about free speech.

"We want to ensure that employees have their first amendment rights and do not feel that's being trampled on," City Councilman Joseph Capobianco said.

Capobianco argues municipalities are different from private companies and employees, as citizens, have the right to comment on their government.

"I think there should be no restrictions on their ability to comment on the job we are doing," he said.

"It takes away from your freedom of speech," one man said.

"I don't think it's OK for the city to restrict it. I think the individual should have enough common sense to know better," another added.

John Coverdale, who conducts social media training for employers and municipalities, recommends a clear policy that spells out the rules.

"Freedom of speech is one thing, conflicting with the values of your employer is another," he said. "A lot of employers are trying to find a way to protect themselves."

He said to be careful with negative posts on personal pages, too – especially if you make public who you work for.

But the mayor said he isn't looking to infringe on anyone's personal Facebook page. The policy would only pertain to the city-run page.

The public will have the chance to exercise its free speech during a debate on the subject Tuesday night.

Experts say more and more government agencies are implementing social media codes of conduct for workers.

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