After receiving a demand letter from the University of Georgia School of Law’s First Amendment Clinic, the Burke County Sheriff’s Office restored Mrs. Traci Hollingsworth’s access to their official Facebook page from which she had been blocked for over two years.

Mrs. Hollingsworth’s husband, Jay Hollingsworth, is a former Burke County Sheriff’s Office sergeant who was shot in the line of duty in 2013, and later diagnosed with lead poisoning in 2019. The Sheriff’s Office terminated his employment in late 2020 after he and his wife requested professional lead testing at the Sheriff’s Office building.

In late 2020, Mrs. Hollingsworth made several comments on the Sheriff Office’s official Facebook page, criticizing their lead testing and employment practices. On a post advertising a firearm training class for citizens at the Sheriff’s Office’s firing range, Mrs. Hollingsworth commented “[w]ith a side of lead poisoning to be sure if you use that range.” On another post advertising that the Sheriff’s Office was hiring for open positions, she commented “[g]uess you feel great about firing someone who was shot in the line of duty to open up a slot.” She was subsequently blocked from accessing the page.

In late 2022, the Clinic wrote a letter to the Sheriff’s Office, explaining that the First Amendment prohibits a government office from blocking an individual from accessing its social media page based on dislike or disagreement with the individual’s expressed viewpoint.

In January 2023, Mrs. Hollingsworth’s access to the Burke County Sheriff’s Page was restored.

Thanks to Clinic Student Maryam Shokry and Clinic Fellow Allyson Veile for their work on this matter.  



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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