Federal agencies have come under pressure to stop communicating about the science of climate change. The National Park Service has recently deleted social-media communications about carbon dioxide, which is the main cause of global warming.
However, it turns out that there are First Amendment issues. A public employee is allowed to speak publicly or share information with the media, if that information is not secret or classified, and if that person speaks as a citizen and not as a representative of the government. Amanda Marcotte reports.
Update: commenter Pechmerle, a lawyer, points out that the Supreme Court has, in a series of leading cases, laid out a balancing test between the government’s legitimate interests in confidentiality vs. the employee’s right to speak out. It’s a three-part test:
(1) The speech is a matter of “public concern,”
(2) The employee spoke as a private citizen and not a public employee (i.e., speech is not pursuant to “official duties”), and
(3) The employee’s speech interest outweighs the agency’s interest in efficiency and effectiveness.
Note particularly the word “outweighs” in factor (3). Such balancing tests get fleshed out, over time, slowly and painfully, as lower court cases face specific fact situations. The good news is that the ACLU has already announced that it stands ready to assist any federal employee faced with improper suppression of his/her speech.
You can donate to the American Civil Liberties Union here.
Dec 2016's avg global temp was 3rd highest on record. Global avg atmospheric CO2 concentration was ~405 ppm. https://t.co/Q7xdVFTBf5
— NASA Climate (@NASAClimate) January 24, 2017