Iowa State Fairgoers Are Fair Game on Facebook

DES MOINES, Iowa – The Facebook page is called “The People Of The Iowa State Fair,” but the Iowa State Fair itself wants nothing to do with it.

“We don’t have any affiliation with it,” said Lori Chappell, the spokesperson for the Iowa State Fair.

The Facebook page allows people to post pictures taken at the fair.  Some pictures depict fun, fair activities, like riding the sky glider.  Others mock fairgoers for their attire, their weight or their assumed sexual orientation.  Almost any picture, or comment, is fair game.

“It’s kind of a hurtful Facebook page,” said Chappell.

According to Chappell, the state fair has filed a complaint with Facebook and asked that the page be taken down, but the response remains the same. “We keep getting back from them, ‘It doesn’t violate community standards.’  So they don’t do anything about it.”

Brett Bullis did something when she saw a picture of her 5-year-old nephew on the page.  People commenting on the picture criticized the boy’s grandmother for tethering him to her with what some called a “leash.”

Bullis expressed her anger in a comment on the page and said, “I still enjoy seeing the silliness of what some people will wear to the fair… I just think kids should be off-limits to make fun of.”

The picture of Bullis’ nephew has been taken down, but you’ll find plenty of other pictures of children and adults who have no idea their pictures are being taken, let alone posted on a public site.

Even more frustrating, Chappell said the fair has no idea who is administering the Facebook page. “We’ve done a little of our own investigating, but have not come up with anything.”

The person, or entity, who administers the page remains anonymous.

A person claiming to be the page administrator did reach out to The Des Moines Register’s Kyle Munson in August of 2013. “At the inception of the page, I was sharing all posts by others. Many were funny, some were mean. But at the beginning we wanted content, so we put up everything,” the statement said. “This is Facebook, so if someone gets too far out of line, they stand to face the consequences for their words. I do not feel that I must have and enforce my own matching set of standards when Facebook’s standards still apply here.”

Some people commenting on the pictures call it “bullying at an adult level.”

That may be the case, but attorneys said there are few legal remedies to the situation.  People posting and commenting are protected by the right to free speech.  It’s not a privacy issue either, because the fairgrounds are public property.

Some say the page is a sign of the times – a time when comments, no matter how crude, can be disseminated to the masses in a matter of seconds.  There’s no way to stop it, but as one person commented on the page, “You should be ashamed.”

We reached out to the administrators of the Facebook page. Their response is here. 

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