Monday, August 5, 2013

Free Speech and Social Media: Between Labor Laws and First Amendment

Facebook Ad-Tech Con Booth 2010
Tampa, (Fl) --- Facebook gives the people the power to share and make the world more open and connected but at the same time it can be used as a tool for espionage as well to ruin people lives because of their own ignorance into posting everything they want to.

There is a problematic between private interests, labor laws and free speech; this triumvirate executes a problem because under today's laws by the National Labor Relations Board, private companies that prohibit employees from making any negative work-related comments on the internet are illegal.

Laws change State by State and multinationals as well private companies know how to exploit those little loops in order to keep employees on check, on Florida there are no laws that protect freedom of speech if an employee would like to ventilate online some work related feelings, some of the companies that operate in Florida as had happened in Illinois ask for any online presence any future or present employee has in order to protect their corporate image.

Walmart, Dale Mabry Tampa
Then NLRB ruling comes under a technically of labor law but yet it seems to be in development under free speech on the Internet Age. Social media had played an important development on the sharing on ideas since 1997 and the creation of different forums that unified users from around the world to talk about different topics.

The being one of the first ones. Then with the forums came the first space to complain or show phase of companies from the hand of their own employees to expose their most dirty secrets. As of today there are blogs and other websites where people can speak openly and even anonymously about what the want even using alternative identities if they want to expose problematic situations that happens on their work place.

According to the chairman of NLRB, the laws are trying to be applied to a new set of technologies to today's standards after the laws were created. The NLRB is telling companies that is illegal to criticize employees if the exercise their right their free speech in order to achieve better work conditions. Then this set another problem, even if it sounds shallow, what about to employees who want to ventilate their stress.? Are they going to get fired.? They are still exercising their free speech and yet they are still protected by the Constitution to say what they want, much as Westboro Baptist Church is on the same level of free speech even if they are categorized as a hate group and can say whatever they want without too many inconvenience.

Then why if Westboro Baptist Church can say whatever they want, why an employee of a private corporation can't? The partial answer relies that a corporation tries to put a clean image and keeps their investment complete, in other words "money is what motivates them to preserve their image even if they are committing every single work-law violation; but it doesn't matter as if they can keep everyone quiet with fear and a big body of lawyers," is creepy to think how money moves a corporation as they just treat their employees as mere peons.

With the addition to reinstate employees who'd been fired for the use of social media such as the case of the Tucson, Arizona reporter from the Arizona Daily Star that expressed the lack of serious approach of the newspaper; or the 2008 case of Katherine Evans, a senior at Pembroke Pines Charter School in South Florida who was suspended  for starting a Facebook page to complain about a teacher. Just to mention two of many cases that eventually had been found relevant at the moment of instating free speech regard corporations but yet there are others such as the case of Ashley Payne, a high school teacher from Georgia who lost her job because a Facebook photo showed her in a vacation spot holding a glass of wine and a beer; the case of Miss Payne could be essential on the point where employees can discuss non-work related issues on the social media without having to struggle with any consequence at the work place.

Yet Miss Payne quit before the case could be rule on her favor and she lost by a mere technicality. So maybe I would get punished one day because I owe a blog and I have an active online presence, who knows.?