Access to Government Officials in the Age of Social Media


As social media platforms have become more pervasive, there has been a concomitant increase in the number of government officials using their personal social media accounts to perform official government duties. Most notably, President Donald Trump continues to use his personal Twitter account, established in 2009, prior to his presidency, to conduct a variety of official tasks. While the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause traditionally protects an individual’s right to engage in self-expression, the Supreme Court has not unequivocally recognized an affirmative right to know as an extension of the First Amendment. Recent court decisions suggest this may change. This study addresses the contours of public access to government officials on social media. Specifically, it considers the circumstances in which government officials are likely to be held to a standard of accountability and the case for treating public officials’ social media accounts as public forums, including how factors relating to account ownership and content impact that analysis.