SOCIAL MEDIA SCREENING OF HOMELAND SECURITY JOB APPLICANTS AND THE IMPLICATIONS ON FREE SPEECH RIGHTS
Peters, Lynda A.
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Social media screening of homeland security job applicants may infringe on their free-speech rights, which diminishes homeland security agencies as defenders of the law and hampers their recruitment efforts. When homeland security employers screen the social media of job applicants, what are the free-speech rights of those applicants, and do existing social-media screening policies support or undermine applicants’ free-speech rights? Content analysis of existing case law reveals no established precedent for the free-speech rights of government job applicants. Legal and social science analysis indicates applicants should enjoy the full First Amendment protections of private citizens and not be subject to the same limitations placed on public employees. Publicly available social media screening policies have elements that may chill free speech by encouraging applicants to self-restrict social media activity. Homeland security agencies should be aware that social media screening may impair the free-speech rights of job applicants, notify applicants when they will screen social media profiles, provide clear guidance on what speech is considered disqualifying, and avoid suggesting that social media screening is used to perpetuate the existing agency culture.
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