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Social Media & Government: What Are the New Rules of Engagement?

Government entities and elected officials are becoming more accessible and connected to constituents through the ubiquitous use of social media, email, text messaging and other communication technologies. The 21st century question is what may government entities and elected officials do and not do to regulate the public’s participation in their social media accounts? Once social media accounts are used for official business, there may be limited ability to restrict or block users or comments on the accounts.

Deborah Fox, Chair of Meyers Nave’s First Amendment Practice, and Of Counsel Margaret Rosequist published an article in The Recorder that explains the state of the law regarding this nuanced area of constitutional concern. First Amendment law recognizes four types of fora – public forum, designated public forum, nonpublic forum and limited public forum – and the classification of the forum at issue is key to assessing whether a government entity’s or an elected official’s restrictions on a particular social media account can withstand a First Amendment challenge. The critical inquiry is whether a digital channel of communication is open for expressive activity and on what terms. A court’s analysis will focus on the actions and policies of the government entity or elected official. As the law lags technology, the challenge is applying legal concepts found in current jurisprudence to the social media environment.

In their article, Deborah and Meg also provide insight on the importance of government entities and elected officials setting policies and standards for public engagement on social media platforms. Please click here to read their article.