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Coral Gables Sues Instagram, Facebook to Uncover Identity of Anti-Gables Critics

Coral Gables City Hall
Coral Gables City Hall Photo by Averette / Wikimedia Commons
click to enlarge CITY OF CORAL GABLES
City of Coral Gables
The posts began appearing in May. Spotted first on Instagram and later on Facebook, someone set up a handful of social media accounts criticizing the City of Coral Gables for its use of private security guards. In typical Coral Gables fashion, the city was not pleased.

So in late May, deputy city attorney Miriam Ramos fired off two cease-and-desist letters and sent them to Silicon Valley, threatening to fine Facebook and Instagram $500 a day if they didn't remove the posts, which Ramos said infringed on the city's trademarks. Now, the city is suing Mark Zuckerberg's multibillion-dollar businesses in an attempt to get the name, phone number, and address of whoever "cast the city in a false light."

"[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," the city's complaint says.

Only traces of the original pages still remain online. After being contacted, Facebook removed a page the city had complained about called "Protect Coral Gables," although it was soon replaced by one with the even more innocuous name of "Coral Gables Residents Who Care," which only has nine likes. The city claims Instagram is still circulating an ad from the same poster, but the city's screenshot shows the ad had just 59 views.


So far, Instagram hasn't played ball. In what can only be described as the legal equivalent of an f-you, an intellectual property employee named Liam (no last name) told the city it basically had no ground to stand on:

"The reported party appears to be using your trademark to refer to or comment on your goods and services," the employee wrote in a June 14 email. "For this reason... we are unable to act on your report."

So why is the city still pursuing the case? Gables city attorney Craig Leen says it's the commission who has directed him to go after the anonymous poster.

"The commission takes very seriously any effort to defame the City of Coral Gables or to violate the city’s trademark," he says.

Leen also takes issue with a video that was posted on both accounts apparently showing how security guards at a Seattle bus terminal stood around and waited for police to arrive after a girl was beaten.

"The incident did not occur in Coral Gables but is meant to look as if it did. This is very misleading to the public and therefore harmful to the city," Leen says.

For now, the identity of the person behind the social media accounts remains unclear. New Times sent a message to the creator of "Coral Gables Residents Who Care" which went unanswered, though it seems possible that whoever set up the accounts is the same person who sent out mysterious mailers telling residents to complain about the city's use of private security guards instead of sworn police officers.

It could be awhile before Zuck has to hand over the poster's identity, though: A Miami-Dade circuit judge has given Facebook and Instagram until September to respond to the complaint.
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Jessica Lipscomb is news editor of Miami New Times and an enthusiastic Florida Woman. Born and raised in Orlando, she has been a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists.
Contact: Jessica Lipscomb