So I’ve been hearing a lot about this as of late, and I was hoping to get some feedback on what you all think on the matter. There was a story online recently that talked about a California student that was suspended from school for calling his teacher “fat”. A lawyer for the student, because this obviously required a lawyer, claimed that his suspension directly violated his first amendment rights. The lawyer referred back to another case where an employee was fired for making derogatory remarks about her supervisor. In that case, the courts determined that Facebook Posts are, in fact, protected under the first amendment. I, myself, had a situation in high school where our school leaders were able to hack into the students Instant Messaging accounts and print off their previous conversations. They then held a parents-only meeting where they showed the conversations to the group and got a lot of people in trouble.
I’m kind of taken aback by this whole situation. I mean, I get that people shouldn’t so stupid as to post something mean, or derogatory, in a PUBLIC forum, then allow the people that is has been written about to see what they have said. It’s like vandalizing someones car then walking up to them and saying “Hi, I vandalized your car, wanna see?”, and expecting to just walk away unscathed. Having said that, I find it completely ridiculous to suspend, or fire, someone over Facebook. If they aren’t directly threatening someone than it should be dismissed. Facebook is a place to express yourself. You are connected with your friends and family and you want to tell them about your life. I’m sure the teacher had their feelings hurt when they were called fat, and I don’t condone being mean to people, but come on. As for firing people for their posts that I could understand a little bit more. If someone is using their Facebook to incite dissension, or reveal anything that is privileged information that I agree, it’s grounds for dismissal. It would equate to overhearing someone say those things.
I think there are just a few easy steps that would make this whole point moot. First, don’t be stupid, change your account’s privacy settings. If you are online, and you are posting about how much you hate everyone, and you know that your boss, or coworker, has a profile, and you have your page open to be read by anyone, than you deserve to get fired. Protect your page, remove your boss from your friends list, and have at it.
Second, from the other end, if your are a large corporation, or really a business of any kind, and you decide that you want to peruse your the profiles of your constituents than maybe it would be smart to have a mutually agreed upon Social Media policy that everyone is aware of and signed off on. If you develop a Social Media policy and your employees agree to it, than when they violate it, you can stomp all over their first amendment rights. Be smart people.
So there you go, that’s my take on the whole situation. What do you think?