Q&A: Dealing With Antisocial Society Messaging

Q. Some of the homeowners in our association participate in discussions on a “neighborhood” social media site that is not controlled by our association. Most of the posts I’ve seen are friendly, but of course there’s a fair number that are critical of just about everything — from the landscaping to board decisions and our management staff. 

 As a board member and property owner, I worry that these posts might paint a negative public picture of our community, and cause division among residents and problems with the staff. Sometimes the posts are unfounded rumors, or statements that are just not true.

Do you have any suggestions on how the board, or other residents who are generally happy with our community, can deal with this? As a board member, I don’t want to cause any kind of legal problem for the association by joining the conversation, if that would be a problem.

                                     —Web Worrier

A. “For the most part, the postings people place on the internet are part of the rights to freedom of speech and expression enjoyed by all in America,” says Gary M. Daddario, partner at Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks, PC, in Braintree, Massachusetts. “This is true of postings on existing social media and also on user-created websites. An association can receive a public ‘black eye’ if it is perceived as attempting to prohibit or unduly restrict free speech. 


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  • It sounds like Gary Daddario should find someone competent in technology to help this trustee understand how to navigate the social media available today. For starters, this trustee should have an electronic forum for owners to openly discuss issues. If such a forum doesn't exist, the owners took it upon themselves to create one one. That is what Facebook and nextdoor.com provide to residents who wish to discuss issues impact them. An HOA board must demonstrate Transparency, Disclosure, Accountability, Responsibility, and Honesty otherwise owners are going to be forced to communicate else where. An HOA board can't expect that they can control the flow information within a community. That is why HOA's have sub-committees. What do the sub-committees in this trustee's HOA tell them? What level of communication and access do owners have for reasonable communication and an expectation of a response to their concerns? Again, that is what Facebook and nextdoor.com provide. A single person can post a concern and all members can discuss the issue openly and do what degree given issues impact multiple parties.