When a public employee or agency uses social media to inform the public about government work, solicits public comments about government issues, and identifies the media with the government, then the media is being used for government purposes. In those situations, members of the public have the right to access the material and to make their views known—including views that express disagreement or criticism. If a public official is using a social media account as a government actor and blocks critics or reporters from seeing what that account has to say, they are most likely running afoul of the Constitution. The right to criticize the government is the heart of the First Amendment, and courts have recognized that blocking people from government social media accounts as infringing on that right. The First Amendment is clear. Government actors and agencies cannot and should not censor people for disagreeing with them, whether that is at a town meeting, on a public sidewalk, or online. Creating a process that requires state agencies to hold a hearing prior to blocking or reporting an individual group still allows for government actors and agencies to censor people for disagreeing with them.



Bill number

HB 6385