Physical spaces like public squares and town halls have often been critical forums for North Dakotans to speak out on issues of public importance.
But with the rise of social media and virtual advocacy opportunities, the avenues for the public to speak with their elected officials have expanded. Facebook comments and Twitter retweets are replacing the public meeting and Zoom meetings have been used in place of public forums. In fact, the Supreme Court recently called these avenues, “the modern public square,” where constituents can “petition their elected representatives and otherwise engage with them in a direct manner.”
So, if a public official uses their account to carry out their role as an elected official, their page or account is subject to the First Amendment.
That means they cannot engage in most forms of censorship such as blocking someone or deleting someone’s comments just because of their subject or opinion. It is also generally unacceptable for the official to ask the platform to delete comments for them. But it’s not all that straightforward, sift through the list of commonly asked questions below.