The rights to speak freely, assemble peacefully, and petition the government are guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. However, none of these rights are absolute. Over the years, federal courts and Congress have defined what types of activities are (and are not) protected. Many grey areas exist where the law is not clear.
Within a relatively short period of time, our civil liberties have moved online. Mass communications technology has evolved so rapidly that the courts’ definitions of First Amendment rights have not always kept up.
Although we are living and working in an uncertain environment, you can take steps to reduce your and your organization’s exposure to “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation” (SLAPPs). The more you know your rights, the better protected you will be.
Although you cannot prevent a SLAPP bully from targeting you, you can take steps to minimize the likelihood of a long and costly legal battle that could drain your organization’s resources or otherwise affect your ability to continue working on behalf of the public interest.
How do you protect yourself? To help you get started, Protect the Protest has published An Activist’s Guide: Reducing Exposure to SLAPP Lawsuits. We have also linked below to some of the best available resources.
Please note that these resources are not a substitute for legal advice. If you are unsure about your organization’s exposure to SLAPPs, we recommend that you consult an experienced First Amendment lawyer. The law is nuanced, and each particular situation is unique.
For more information about SLAPPs, please visit the following pages: