Can a County Restrict its Employees’ Use of Private Social Media Without Violating First Amendment Rights?

Can a County Restrict its Employees’ Use of Private Social Media Without Violating First Amendment Rights?

Gloucester County, New Jersey sparked controversy for heavily restricting its employees’ use of social media. The county passed a policy that allegedly “prohibits all county employees from engaging in a broad range of expressive activities through private social media outlets.” Distraught employees filed a claim with the Public Employment Relations Commission of Gloucester County, alleging that the county has “independently interfered with, restrained, or coerced employees in the exercise of their rights to speak about labor and employment-related matters.” The county believes that this restriction on social media will prevent cyber bullying, discrimination, and will ultimately protect the county’s employees. The First Amendment’s application to new technology such as social media continues to evolve; the Gloucester County lawsuit reflects the tension inherent in this evolution.

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