Media Law Prof Blog

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Louisiana State Univ.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bar Applications and the Relevance of Social Network Information

Daniel F. O'Brien, St. Thomas University School of Law, has published Facebook vs. The Florida Bar. Here is the abstract.
This piece discusses social networking websites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter and MySpace) and their importance vis-à-vis the First Amendment in terms of communicating ideas (i.e. the market places of ideas), self-expression and discovery, and political expression and discussion. I emphasize the importance of this because the generation of law school graduates currently applying to take the bar is one of the first to grow up with ready access to the internet from a young age.

I go on to examine the recent proposals of the Florida Board of Bar Examiners (FBBE) to screen the social network accounts of certain applicants to the Florida Bar. I argue that the guidelines are unconstitutionally vague and overbroad and as a result will have a chilling effect on speech if not clarified and the information on how the screening process works is then made easily available to bar candidates. I also seek to offer some ways in which it may be possible for a Bar Association to create rules for screen the social networking site accounts of individual applicants without running the risk that such screening will restrict or chill the first amendment rights of applicants. The focus is on the FBBE that is only because they were the first to announce such an ambitious plan. However, I believe the principles would also apply for any bar association seeking to screen the social networking site accounts of applicants.
The full text is not available from SSRN.

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