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Evolving relationship of government and social media examined in UF Constitution Day Program

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Government agencies at all levels are using Facebook and other social media to communicate, and many are unaware they may be more vulnerable than private sector users to lawsuits and other legal action.

Stephen C. O’Connell Chair and Professor of Law Lyrissa Lidsky will address this issue at UF’s Constitution Day Program, examining the complex relationship between the First Amendment and how it applies to government’s relationship to social media. The presentation, entitled “All the President’s Tweets: The First Amendment and the Online Public Forum,” will take place Sept. 17 from 10-11:30 a.m. in the University of Florida Levin College of Law’s Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom (Holland Hall room 180). Lidsky’s presentation will be followed by a discussion with UF Law Center for Governmental Responsibility Director Jon Mills and Executive Director of the Brechner Center Sandra Chance, and will be moderated by UF Law Dean Robert Jerry.

“Social media have the potential to enhance discourse between citizens and the government actors who serve them,” Lidsky said. “Currently, however, the murkiness of public forum doctrine may deter realization of the social media’s full potential to foster First Amendment values.”

The event is free and open to the public and the first 200 attendees will receive a free pocket-sized copy of the Constitution courtesy of Smathers Libraries. The Constitution Day Program will continue that day with an open-mic reading of the U.S. Constitution sponsored by Smathers Libraries. The reading will take place on the Plaza of the Americas outside of Library West. Cake, lemonade and complimentary copies of the Constitution will also be available. For additional information go to

“It is wonderful to celebrate Constitution Day each year,” said Dean of University Libraries Judith Russell. “It reminds people of the importance of the Constitution in establishing the basic framework of our government and protecting our rights.”

Constitution Day commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787, and each year the University of Florida – along with other public funded universities – celebrate the day with special programs and activities. This year’s two-part event is presented jointly by the University of Florida Levin College of Law and Smathers Libraries in cooperation with UF’s Faculty Senate and Academic and Professional Assembly (APA).

“Constitution Day is an opportunity to recognize the importance and continuing impact of the U.S. Constitution in citizens’ lives,” said Jerry. “The Levin College of Law has taken the lead at UF in holding programs in its honor each year, and we are pleased this year to partner with Smathers Libraries.”


Lyrissa Lidsky – Lidsky is the Stephen C. O’Connell Chair in Law at the University of Florida Levin College of Law and her areas of expertise include speech and press freedom and particularly the application of First Amendment principles to emerging media. She is the co-author of the best-selling law school casebook for mass media law, and has also co-authored a reference book on press freedom and additional casebooks for torts and first amendment law. She has also authored numerous law review articles, and courts have cited her works a number of times in cases involving novel issues of defamation law and especially the treatment of anonymous online speakers accused of defamation. Lidsky has also spoken at various conferences, including annual meetings of the Florida Bar’s First Amendment Law Section. She will be presenting her new article on social media later in the month at the Bits without Borders conference at Michigan State University Law School. She is also a regular contributor to

Jon Mills – Mills is Dean Emeritus of the University of Florida Levin College of Law, director for the Center for Governmental Responsibility and former Florida speaker of the House. He is also the author of author of Privacy: The Lost Right, Oxford Univ. Press, 2008, which features and an overview of social media and the inherent conflict between social media and information disclosure in public institutions.

Sandra Chance – Chance specializes in media law and is the executive director for the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, McClatchy Professor in Freedom of Information and was the Scripps-Howard National Journalism Teacher of the Year in 2005. She teaches media law at UF at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Lidsky and Mills, along with fellow panelists UF Chief Privacy Officer Susan Blair, Associate Vice President and First Deputy General Counsel Barbara Wingo, Human Resource Services Vice President Paula Fussell and University Relations Vice President Jane Adams, presented a seminar on the safe and effective use of social media, “Social Media: Promises, Pitfalls & Perils,” earlier this year at the law school. The program examined the liabilities and legal pitfalls of using Facebook, Twitter and other social media and special concerns related to public institutions operating under the Sunshine Law, and is available for free online viewing at

For more information: Levin College of Law Media Relations Manager Matt Walker, 273-0650,

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Published: September 1st, 2010

Category: News

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