Maine Rep. Proposes Change to Social Media Rules During House Sessions

Rep. Matt Pouliot wants to give legislators more latitude on social media while in session

Members of the Maine House of Representatives may soon give constituents a live look inside their session, on Facebook.

Rep. Matt Pouliot (R-Augusta) is proposing a rule change to give legislators more latitude on social media while in session.

“I think it’s another way to connect with our constituents,” said Rep. Pouliot. Currently, House rules prohibit lawmakers from taking photos or transmitting video.

Pouliot is pushing the Rules Committee, which takes up the issue on Wednesday, to allow for photos and live video.

Facebook, the most popular social networking website in the world, has a feature that allows users to record live video, and broadcast it out to followers. It has become a popular feature for journalists sharing breaking news, and was utilized by members of Congress last year to broadcast a sit-in.

“Why shouldn’t people at home know exactly what we’re doing here?” said Rep. Karl Ward (R-Dedham), who supports the rule change.

Opponents worry about the ways lawmakers could use the technology to mislead.

“This is looking like trouble,” said Rep. John Martin (D-Eagle Lake), a longtime lawmaker who served as Speaker of the House for 20 years. He said he supports transparency in the State House – but worries this will cause lawmakers to bypass traditional media, and give their followers only part of the story.

“[Viewers] will only get what that particular legislator wants you to see, and not what is really going on,” he said.

The House Chamber already has cameras set up to record sessions in full, and broadcast them live on the legislature website.

“A lot of people don’t know where to access that information or how to find it on a timely basis,” said Pouliot. “[Facebook] is a platform people are comfortable using.”

Pouliot has been working with a Facebook liaison to update the House Rules, and said the liaison believes other states are considering similar measures, but Maine could be among the first leading the charge.

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