Inside Coral Gables’ Legal Battle Against Social Media Giants

The City of Coral Gables is pursuing legal action against Facebook and Instagram for accounts they claim cause damage to the city's reputation.

City of Coral Gables

The City of Coral Gables is pursuing legal action against Facebook and Instagram for accounts they claim cause damage to the city's reputation.

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In May of 2017, several accounts sprung up on social media criticizing the City of Coral Gables for various things, among them the use of private security guards. Upset by the damaging posts, Deputy City Attorney Miriam Ramos sent two cease and desist letters to Facebook and Instagram, threatening to fine them $500 a day if the posts were not removed. The city is now suing the companies in order to get the name, phone number and address of the individual responsible for the posts. They claim Coral Gables “will suffer irreparable harm if it is unable to determine the identity of the entity, person, or persons responsible for the misuse of the city emblem and publishing misleading and erroneous, offensive content,” according to the official complaint.

“The video posted online sheds a super negative light on Coral Gables so I support the city deciding to pursue legal action against Facebook and Instagram so they can find out who is trying to make the city look bad,” freshman Peter Kellogg said.

The Facebook pages named “Protect Coral Gables” and “Coral Gables Residents Who Care” have garnered a mere nine likes, while the Instagram ad has just 59 views. Craig Leen, Gables City Attorney, has pursued this case at the request of the city commission, who he says “takes very seriously any effort to defame the City of Coral Gables or to violate the city’s trademark”. Most concerning to the commission is a video that was posted on both accounts depicting a girl being beaten while three security guards stand idly by, suggesting the incident happened in Coral Gables. The posts, which came in the midst of heavy criticism of the police department, were captioned “$610,000 tax dollars wasted on security guards in Coral Gables… Watch how the security guards can only watch as a girl is beaten…”.

City of Coral Gables
Several of the Facebook pages that sprung up in May.

“This is classic Coral Gables. The lengths they have gone to just to find out who posted these videos, even after they were deleted, is honestly a waste of time. They should concentrate their legal efforts on something other than a social media battle,” junior Angelle Garcia said.

The identity of the person behind the accounts remains obscure and it is unclear whether Facebook and Instagram will comply. The city received a reply from the latter in June stating that “the reported party appears to be using your trademark to refer to or comment on your goods or services, for this reason… we are unable to act on your report.” Given this reply, it appears they will not be easily swayed. Facebook and Instagram have until September to respond to the city’s complaint.

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