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.


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Whenever and whereever you are you always represent your company, if you name your company (that's one reason I never name my company except when I'm on company business, just my line of work).

It's the same with customers. NEVER name customers outside the company except in the most generic sense (like I am doing a project for customer XXX or company YYY is a customer of the company I work for).
Especially never say anything negative about a customer, especially off company time.
Everyone tells stories about things they encountered at work and at customers, that's normal. But make sure the individual customer cannot be put in a bad light because of it, it makes not only you but your employer look bad.

Everyone who's spent a few years in consultancy knows this (and most abide by it out of general principle), but many others seem to forget as they have no direct customer contact.
To consultants their own company is often just another company in practice if not in theory (I spent more time with customers than I did in my office during my 5 years in consultancy, often seeing real colleagues only once a month if that often but seeing customers (who were effectively my actual coworkers) every day and sometimes over the weekend).

As you quoted, the First Amendment appllies to government agencies, not private industry. The owners of websites can prohibit any kind of speech they want to without restruction because there are no laws to stop them from doing that. When at work, on company time, using company-owned computers, the company has the right to monitor your every second on-the-job, monitor your use of the computer, dictate what you can and cannot do them them, and fire you for flagrent misuse. That's the way it is -- if you don't like it then get the f**k out of my company and work someplace else!

Another thing people should not do online is capitalize words unnecessarily. This is annoying, and is like yelling. "Blog" does not need to be in all caps.

I think you are confusing government censorship with private contractual agreements. The first amendment does not apply to a private business. A worker is free not to enter into a contract which has provisions that control his personal life, but he may not get the job he would otherwise want if he adopts that policy. The employer is also free not to employ anyone for any reason (except some civil rights issues and the like which are regulated using the commerce clause). If there is no contract the employer could easily fire someone for something like this, and if there is a contract it is likely the employer has put in provisions which allow termination for activities during non-work hours.

You also seem to misunderstand the fire case. The point of the case is that it puts people in an immediate danger, not that the guy who would do it is an asshole. There are plently of compeltly protected forms of speech which only an asshole would use, but they are protected none the less. Even the KKK is protected, as it should be.

Online, the 'First Amendment' needs to be exceeded and, if necessary, abandoned. The internet is NOT the USA!

(There ya go, benna, that was an example of capitalisation used for emphasis :))

The internet is a global medium, not a local medium. Local laws and standards do not justifiably apply in regard to what is 'decent' and 'acceptable' in internet communication. A site such as this one, for example, has a global audience. To many, many people about the globe, the '1st amendment' is not really a protection of 'freedom' but rather an excuse to justify the expression of hatreds, intolerances and self-interest. To many people around the globe, the notion of 'responsibilities' is far more important and over-riding than the notion of 'rights'.

The employee/company example mentioned above is a clear example of how rights and responsibilities have not been balanced out. The employees in question have not 'exercised free speech' - they've exceeded that and instead engaged in intentionally destructive behaviour. If local laws prohibited the Company from taking action in such circumstances then it would be a clearcut case of "the law is an ass". Freedom of Speech should not extend to the point where it allows harm to be caused without redress!

P.S. These blogs might not have the full editing control set provided, but php tags still work in them. Should someone wish to italicise for emphasis, for example, simply wrap the term in [ i ] [ /i ] tags, like this!

Cheers all! Peace 'n' all that :)

Of course the only place on Earth the 1st Amendment applies is within the borders of USA. Even American citizens have no such protection in other nations -- they have to obey host nation's laws just like everybody else in the host nation. "when in Rome to as the Romans do". And as has been said before, the 1st Amendment does not apply to non-government agencies such as corporations and businesses.

In the USA, business and corporations are similir to small dictatorships with some limitations of government rules and unions. Basically its Do as I tell you to do and if you don't like it then get the hell out! Of course what I tell you to do must be legal -- they can't tell you to murder somebody, or commit other crimes.

If local laws prohibited the Company from taking action in such circumstances then it would be a clearcut case of "the law is an ass". Freedom of Speech should not extend to the point where it allows harm to be caused without redress!

In fact, if the law prevented the company from firing the employee for slandering them that could be construed as that law violating the company's first ammendment rights to free expression of their opinion (which would be that the employee is not fit to work in that company).

Playing devil's advocate here :)

Well some would probobly say that the company has a right to fire its employees under some implied principle of freedom of contract (something I can't find in the constitution, but which supposed "conservative" non-activist judges see clear as day). Other's might argue, though, that the Commerce Clause give the government ample authority for such regulation (though such a law might in fact be stupid).

In the United States of America, the conduct of a business is mostly dictated by the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), which most citizens are not aware of.

The Constitution holds the framework for most activities, but various parts have been ammended and erroded, or strengthened through the UCC, and cases passed front of the Supreme Court.

On top of that, because the USA is a federation of States, State Constitutions and UCC type of laws may superseed the Federal laws.

General employees without contract, are considered "at-will" employees.

This de facto "contract" grants right to the employer to fire an individual for any reason, other then protected areas (such as race, gender, age, etc.).

It also grants the right to the employee to quit in an instant, without any harm.

In reality, most business are not sheltered from legal actions, even when dispatching an employee with "at-will" status.

Most countries, and international unions, such as the EU have similar protections, albeit might be worded differently.

Despite both sides badgering the others, from a legal protection perspective, they are relatively comparable. It is the lack of understanding by the general public of laws on both sides, which is misrepresented by the local media, which coauses the confusion.

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