The ACLU of Iowa today released materials detailing the steps people can take if they have been blocked or censored by Iowa public officials on social media.
Elected officials and government agencies are increasingly using social media to communicate with their constituents and the general public. In fact, the Supreme Court has recently recognized that Facebook, Twitter, and Zoom can be “the modern public square.”
ACLU of Iowa Staff Attorney Shefali Aurora said, “With the rise of social media, the avenues for members of the public to speak with their elected officials have expanded. It is important that First Amendment rights remain protected on social media. Elected officials cannot delete comments or block users based on the content of the speech on their official government social media accounts.”
While the materials are geared toward people whose rights may have been violated, elected officials will also be able to reference this information to better protect the free speech rights of their constituents—hopefully preventing unconstitutional censorship in the first place.
The materials include answers to frequently asked questions, a step-by-step guide and flowchart to help people figure out if their constitutional rights have been violated, a template demand letter to send to public officials, and contact information for the ACLU of Iowa legal team.
The step-by-step guide outlines the following process:
- Documentation: Take photos or screenshots of the social media account that you were blocked from engaging with, or that deleted your posts. Try to document your posts leading up to being blocked as well as any communications, notifications, or messages about your post(s), and the decision to block you or remove your posts.
- Confirmation: Follow the flowchart in the materials to determine if your constitutional rights may have been violated.
- Take Action: If the flowchart determines your rights may have been violated, contact the elected official via phone or email and ask to be unblocked. If you receive no response, download and personalize the ACLU of Iowa’s Template Demand Letter and send it to the elected official.
- Request Assistance: If you send a letter and receive no response from the elected official after 30 days, contact the ACLU of Iowa by emailing [email protected].
The ACLU of Iowa is distributing the materials through social media and other channels to ensure Iowans know how to protect their First Amendment right to freedom of speech on social media. The materials can be found online here.