First Amendment Center legal intern Melemaikalani Moniz lays out what government employees can and can’t post on social media in her article, To Tweet or Not to Tweet.
Moniz observes that there is a growing interest in this topic, stemming from the controversies that took place earlier this year where government agency Twitter accounts were shut down, allegedly for posting content that was critical of the Trump administration.
These incidents have raised public awareness of a much broader question: What are the free speech rights of government employees? Can they be fired or disciplined for statements they make on social media, or do they have the same right to air their political opinions as ordinary citizens?
The answer: It depends. (The same answer applies to most legal questions.)
For the most part, the government can’t punish or limit the speech of private citizens. But employers do have the right to limit or discipline the speech of their employees. Naturally, things get a little complicated when the government is your employer.