Understanding the limits of free speech using social media

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The line between free speech is blurred for students especially when using social media. To help students and teachers understand free speech rights and limitations, Michigan State University’s College of Law launched The McLellan Online Free Speech Library.

This online resource run by MSU’s First Ammendment Law Clinic has law professors and law students answer a range of First Ammendment questions that can help students avoid suspensions, expulsions, arrests, and even lawsuits. Issues including censorship, FOIA, libel, privacy, student press rights, student protests and self-expression.

“What is and isn’t protected by the First Amendment has become more complicated since technology has opened the door to online voices” said Nancy Costello, director of MSU’s First Amendment Law Clinic, the nation’s only clinical school program focused on protecting student speech and press rights.

Visitors can search the website for information by topic, take quizzes to test their knowledge on related subjects or submit specific questions. Questions ranging from “is using the design of a popular board game as a theme for homecoming copyright infringement?” to the more serious “can a school suspend students for attacking another student on social media?” or even “can I use 30 seconds of a Beyoncé song in the background of my student broadcast project?”

Attorney Richard McLellan, MSU College of Law trustee and MSU alumnus, donated $500,000 to create the online library to make MSU’s law resources available to students and teachers nationwide.

“My own high school experiences taught me the importance of protecting students’ First Amendment rights,” McLellan said. “I’ve always been passionate about free speech and hope this online library will give students tools to stand up against unlawful infringement.”

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