Each year, FIRE reviews thousands of potential cases involving individuals and groups whose rights are threatened. FIRE’s team of legal and advocacy experts have decades of experience protecting free speech both on and off college campuses. Learn more about FIRE’s civil liberties cases.
School board trustees Michelle O’Connor-Ratcliff and T.J. Zane embraced the interactive nature of social media. They used their personal Facebook and Twitter accounts to solicit feedback from constituents, invite the public to board meetings, and answer questions. But when they tired of two concerned parents’ probing commentary, the trustees hit the block button.
High schools cannot punish a student for satirizing the principal on social media when the satire occurs off campus and does not cause substantial disruption at school. A principal’s pride is not an exception to the First Amendment.
Political officeholders widely recognize and embrace the power of social media. Many officials—including President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump—continued to use their personal social media accounts to communicate with the public while in office. Yet too many officials harness the power of social media while also selectively blocking or banning certain members of the public from interacting with their accounts.
The City of Orem banned book displays for gay pride month, women’s history, as well as heritage-month displays for minority groups because it didn’t like the viewpoints. When the Utah Library Association (ULA) criticized that policy, the City stripped library staff, including Orem librarian and former president of the ULA Rita Christensen, of a key professional benefit the city provided for years: time and resources to join and participate in ULA programs.
The government of Bristol, Tennessee, issued a policy restricting comments on the city’s social media pages, including a prohibition on comments that “[c]ontain any information or statements that would negatively affect the city’s image.”
On February 5, 2023, Hartford Police arrested a University of Hartford student for making allegedly threatening posts on the social media app Yik Yak. Police did not find any weapons on campus, and the student told police he made the posts as a joke.
New York has enacted a new law with the goal of regulating disfavored—but constitutionally protected—online speech. The law, titled “Social media networks; hateful conduct prohibited,” ostensibly targets “hateful conduct,” but in reality requires online platforms to “respond [to],” “address” and “handle” protected speech that someone, somewhere finds “humiliating” or “vilifying” toward a group based on race, color, religion, or other protected categories.
It is not a crime to speak out against another’s political speech. But that didn’t stop police in Brattleboro, Vermont from handing a criminal citation to Isabel Vinson after she posted Facebook comments criticizing a local businessman’s “All Lives Matter” post under Vermont’s “disturbing the peace by electronic communication” statute.
If you are facing retaliation over protected speech, or if you are a college student or faculty member whose First Amendment rights may have been violated, reach out to FIRE to learn more about how we can protect your rights.