First Amendment Audits: Definition, examples and more


The right to take photographs and record videos of a public space is generally protected by the First Amendment. But freedoms of speech and the press are not unlimited. The boundaries of when people can record, and when recording can be limited, are regularly pushed and tested by journalists, government officials, regular people with cameras ― and First Amendment audits.

A First Amendment audit occurs when people film public officials or employees to hold them accountable or "test" their right to film in public spaces like town halls, libraries, police stations, parking lots, or state and local agencies. The public space "passes" the test if the audit is uneventful. It fails the test if a public employee confronts the person filming — or "auditor" — attempts to stop them from filming, threatens them with arrest, or removes them from the public space.

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