PLAINVILLE — A middle finger emoji has gotten a former selectman blocked from a non-official Facebook page run by the town moderator.

Matt Kavanah admits he posted the emoji on the Plainville Town Meeting site, but said the real issue is he is being silenced for disagreeing with town officials.

He said a deal struck by town officials right before town meeting last June without citizen input prevented voters from having a choice on the school budget, which he wanted increased.

When he saw comments on the Facebook page about how smoothly town meeting went, he objected, saying the opinions of voters were silenced.

He compared the move to a theory by Noam Chomsky called “manufactured consent,” which he says means anyone who does not accept official propaganda is silenced or ignored.

His comments were deleted and later he was blocked by Town Moderator Luke Travis, who runs the page.

“Travis blocked me because he did not want to hear my opinion on how our town meeting went,” Kavanah said.

Travis, however, said it was an “obscenity” that got Kavanah blocked, not his opinions.

He said he also deleted Kavanah’s original post because it falsely accused town officials of striking a budget deal in private when the agreement actually came at a public meeting.

It was later that he blocked Kavanah because of the obscenity, which he declined to reveal. Kavanah said, however, that it was the middle finger emoji.

“I’m terribly sorry if that upset his delicate sensibilities,” Kavanah replied.

He called the episode censorship and said it’s unconstitutional for public officials to block citizens.

But, Travis, an attorney, said there is no First Amendment issue at play because the Facebook page is not associated with the town.

He said he runs the page privately in order to publish the agendas for town meetings and to urge voters to participate.

The page is informational and not a forum for “sniping,” Travis said.

“It’s a pretty boring site. I might take it down. It’s not worth the trouble,” he said.

Jim Hand may be reached at 508-236-0399 or jhand@thesunchronicle.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TSCpolitics.

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