ACLU-DE has sent a letter to the Dover City Council advising them that the social media policy they are considering violates the First Amendment of the U.S Constitution. The policy, as written, would govern employee communication inside and outside of the workplace and would apply whether workplace or personal electronic equipment was used.

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It would prohibit most city employees from making disparaging statements about co-workers, supervisors or the public and negative statements of any kind against various minority groups. The policy prohibits speech on many other issues, as well, and also states that the list of prohibited activities is “non-exclusive,” leaving the door open for further undefined restrictions to speech.

Government employees have the same free speech rights as the rest of us,” said Kathleen MacRae, ACLU-DE executive director. “If a City of Dover employee engages in distasteful or disrespectful speech online or through a social media site such as FaceBook or Twitter after work hours, that is their choice. The government cannot dictate what is acceptable speech.”

Consideration of the social media policy is on the September 12, 2011 agenda for  the Dover City Council Legislative, Finance, and Administration Committee meeting. ACLU-DE legal director Richard Morse has urged them to reject the proposed policy.

The letter to Dover City Council is here.