LINCOLN, Neb. – Blockers beware, the ACLU of Nebraska has launched a new educational resource to help Nebraskans know their rights if they are blocked by an elected official or government agency on a social media platform.
The online toolkit is titled “Know Your Rights: Social Media Censorship by Public Officials.” It outlines general legal considerations and steps Nebraskans can take to address the situation and self-advocate if they believe they were wrongfully blocked or censored on an official governmental page. The educational resource includes a simple flowchart that can help Nebraskans quickly understand if their rights may have been violated and a sample letter they can send to elected officials and government agencies.
ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad said the new webpage will help answer questions that the civil rights organization receives through legal intake and empower Nebraska to understand their right to free expression online. Over the last few years, the ACLU has been able to successfully resolve complaints in this emerging area of law without litigation and has conducted educational classes for government attorneys through the Nebraska Bar Association.
“This innovative new toolkit helps remind Nebraskans who speak out online and elected officials that the courts have been clear: when social media accounts are used for government business, restricting protected speech is unconstitutional,” Conrad said. "Nebraskans must remain part of the conversation in traditional and digital public squares. As our democracy increasingly moves online, our First Amendment freedoms to receive information and petition our government must remain protected.”
The toolkit is based on a similar resource developed by a fellow ACLU affiliate. Its guidance focuses only on government pages, not those managed by private individuals or businesses, because the First Amendment protects against government action.