What, exactly, is free speech? What is allowed by the US 1st Amendment? Where are the lines drawn concerning what people can say, and how they can be liable for their statements?
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
I caught an article the other day that talked about some employees BLOGGING after hours discussing how bad their business was, and how they were going to sabatoge the business. Investigations showed that the accussed employees used personal computers on personal time. A number of them were fired.
Most companies have some sort of policy concerning the use of computers for business reasons, along with a use concerning mail-forwarding, and no porn at work. Workers should expect their email to be snooped on and stored, the websites they visit inspected, and their telephone calls tracked. In the interest of protecting the business, expect new policies concerning BLOGGING to come forth.
I personally equate actions like this similar to yelling FIRE in a theater, or calling in a bomb-threat -- these actions show poor choices of character, and that people deciding to make them should be held liable for their actions. I support the actions of firing the conspiring employees. Airing of "dirty laundry" is irresponsible, and costs money. More often then not, there are much smoother ways of solving internal problems.
And for those who may argue that "well, it was on personal time, on personal computers, so what right does the company have to make decisions in the personal space?"... well let me suggest a few things:
* You may or may not have a pager. That means you are on call, with some sort of service level agreement. This is part of the employee - employer contract
* Some businesses require you to be on-call and able to function within a reasonable time of being called in. Companies like railroads and medical fields demand absolute - sobriety. This imposes on your personal life, but yet is part of the employment agreement
* In casual conversation, you can tell your friend "I work for Company". The company can, in the same light, say "Mr. X works for us". Day or night. There is a relationship there. You may drive a company car, or have a company cell phone. There are convieniences built into many employment agreements. Behavior is a natural extension of these agreements.
* Ask any sports star, or any politician for information on how things in their personal life have caused problems. The personal life cannot be separated that easily.
IN THE END... behave when you are online. Don't use foul language. Spellcheck (even I need to this!). Don't badger people, or name names and attack. People can track you, and form opinions out of context, and that is very hard to counter. Behave.