Current State of the Law
Courts have repeatedly said that official government social media accounts create a public forum, and therefore everyone has the right to participate in a respectful and appropriate way. This includes any personal social media accounts lawmakers use for official purposes.
American Atheists has filed a federal lawsuit in Arkansas against State Senator Jason Rapert for his actions on social media. Learn more about our case here.
On social media, public officials are not allowed to isolate themselves in a “filter bubble” and silence opposing viewpoints by blocking people who respectfully disagree with them.
Blocking citizens from government-created social media accounts for the views they express in their tweets, posts, and comments suppresses their First Amendment rights, including the freedoms of speech, assembly, religion, press, and petition.
While public officials do have the right to block users on their own personal or campaign social media accounts, if they use those accounts in an official manner (for example, disseminating community information, announcing official plans or events, or soliciting public comment), they cannot block people based on their viewpoint or beliefs.
Virtual Town Hall
Some elected officials have stopped holding in-person town hall meetings altogether in favor of online town halls.
This means if an official or agency blocks you, you cannot participate at all in this fundamental democratic process.
This is an emerging area of law and a number of cases are ongoing in federal courts.
We’re monitoring these cases and working with allies to ensure that elected officials can’t engage in unconstitutional behavior like viewpoint discrimination on social media.
Know the Rules
Be thoughtful and respectful. It’s the very best way to get your message across, and it will better allow us to take action if you are blocked!
In general, government officials and agency social media channels are permitted to block you if you post vulgar, hateful, racist, sexist, or homophobic content. Please do not post inflammatory content that would conflict with the social media policies of the department, official, or platform.
Don’t spread fake news! Provide links to scientific evidence, statistics, and trustworthy sources. Stay away as much as possible from anecdotal evidence and unverified sources.
Let us know when you successfully ENGAGE! Use #AtheistsENGAGE and include us @AmericanAtheist.
Here are some issues you may want to ENGAGE in:
Why you are an atheist or what atheism means to you.
Why a particular government action or policy privileges a particular religious viewpoint.