Analyzing social media's evolving role in the First Amendment

Analyzing social media's evolving role in the First Amendment

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

In 2005, just five percent of adults were on social media platforms.

Today, that number is up to 72 percent, according to the PEW Research Center.

As this digital phenomenon grows, so does the amount of arguments about First Amendment rights on these platforms.

Lubbock attorney Fernando Bustos said it's time to take notice. 

"What's interesting in education today is students are sometimes being disciplined or not being disciplined for things they do off campus, and off hours, on social media. There's a great split among the country and the courts as to whether schools can discipline students for statements they make on social media outside the school hours. The federal courts and the appeals court here that covers Texas hasn't ruled on that issue yet, and I think it could reach the Supreme Court one day," Bustos said.

Bustos said one of the biggest things to watch in regards to social media and the First Amendment is the block button. 

"This is a new frontier. You have likes, dislikes, and people being banned from Twitter -- that's a big deal. Public officials who have Twitter accounts, if they try to block people from following them, that however can lead to some First Amendment repercussions if government actors block private citizens from following them on Twitter, and that government official could land in hot water," Bustos said.

About seven in ten Americans said they believe social media platforms censor political views and violate their first amendment rights, according to the PEW Research Center.

But Bustos said he has a message for those who believe they have a case against them. 

"Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat -- they are private companies. So you can't bring up a First Amendment free speech claim against them. You can only bring up First Amendment free speech claims against a government that is censoring your speech. So that's something for people to be aware of," Bustos said.

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