The University of Georgia School of Law’s First Amendment Clinic has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Morrow, Georgia for blocking Aaron Booterbaugh from the City’s Facebook Page after he posted comments critical of the City’s Mayor and City Manager.

The litigation also challenges the City of Morrow’s social media policies as allowing the City to exercise unfettered discretion in how it regulates users’ speech on its social media pages, which the City admits are public forums. For instance, by prohibiting “objectionable content” or “unsupported accusations,” the City grants itself the power to censor speech it finds unflattering or otherwise disfavors. The First Amendment prohibits this kind of viewpoint-based discrimination in any government forum.

Finally, the complaint asserts that the City of Morrow violated the Georgia Open Records Act by refusing to produce documents that fit squarely within the Act’s definition of “public record” and by requiring pre-payment before locating responsive records.

Booterbaugh states, “By bringing this action, my hope is to defend, not just me, but the rights of everyone who is effected by governmental overreach by the City of Morrow and to restore the people’s voice.”

Thanks to Clinic students Jennifer Danker, Delaney Davis, and Warren “Ren” Schmitt, as well as Clinic fellows Lindsey Floyd and Allyson Veile, for their work on this matter under the supervision of Clinic Director Clare Norins. 

A blue screen with a large button titled "Block" at the center with a mouse clicker over it.

The Issue

Social Media Blocking

The First Amendment protects speech on social media platforms that have been designated as public forums by government officials or agencies. Government officials cannot block individuals from accessing their social media pages simply because the government dislikes or disagrees with their speech. Read more about our work protecting citizen speech here.

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An image of two protesters holding up signs. The man on the right holds a sign that says "Justice 4 All". The woman on the left weras a face mask and her sign says "I want to be heard".

The Issue

Free Speech

The First Amendment protects the right of private individuals to engage in speech and expression without being censored or punished by the government because of their viewpoint. While the government may constitutionally regulate the time, place, and manner of private speech in public forums it must do so in a viewpoint-neutral manner and, depending on…

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