Internet Freedom Of Speech And Censorship
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The United States, a bastion of democracy to the world, has long recognized the importance of freedom of expression to safeguard democracy and grow as a nation. It is a right enshrined in the very first provision of the United States Constitution. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution, adopted in 1791, provides that Congress shall make no law 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.
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Although freedom of speech enjoys heightened protection from the government, this protection is not really absolute. The Supreme Court imposes some very narrow restrictions which are deemed not fully protected under the First Amendment. These include advocacy of imminent illegal conduct, defamation, obscenity, and fraudulent misrepresentation. In any of these categories, the speech should be suppressed because of its harmful content .
You Are Concerned About Safety Or Harassment
The U.S. Department of Occupational Safety and Health Administration gives all workers the right to a safe workplace. If you believe that your workplace is unsafe, you have the right to complain to your supervisors and make a report to OSHA without fear of retaliation. In addition, workers have the right to request an OSHA inspection, report any work-related illness or injury, and see their own medical records related to illness or injury.
Similarly, the EEOC protects workers who report harassment or discrimination from retaliation in the workplace.
Freedom Of Speech In The Workplace: What Are Your Rights
A common misconception is that employees have a constitutionally protected right of free speech in the workplace. The truth is, public sector employees enjoy some limited protection. But if you’re a private employee, the First Amendment will not protect you from being fired for something you say at work.
Likewise, it won’t prevent your employer from firing, disciplining, or demoting you for things you post on social media in your free time. This is true even if your statement is not criminal, vulgar, or offensive.
So what are your rights?
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You Work For The Federal Government
Regardless of which state you live in, if your employer is the federal government, you may have more protection over speech at work. In that case, you have protection for anything you say as a citizen as long as what youre saying does not impact your employers to continue delivering their services.
In most cases, your right to free speech doesnt include the right to keep your job if you make statements your employer disagrees with at work or even public statements outside the workplace. In some cases, employers have even argued that their inability to restrict workers free speech is a restriction on their own free speech.
Protect yourself by reading any policies your company has shared around free speech and by learning whether there are any state or local laws applicable to your situation.
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C Workers Social Media Political And Religious Speech
What happens when workers disagree with the boss about sensitive topics, including politics and religion? Workplace conflicts over these issues can raise thorny problems, especially if one employee holds views that another finds hurtful or dehumanizing. But, as the introduction to this paper discusses, employers sometimes coerce employees political or religious speech in contexts that have nothing to do with maintaining workplace harmony in these situations, the employer simply wishes to control employees views and beliefs for its own purposes. As the next two subsections discuss, there are some exceptions to the at-will rule that are sometimes relevant to these situationsbut employees are often left unprotected.
1. Political expression
In addition to laws specifically protecting employees from retaliation based on their political activity, a handful of states including California, Colorado, and North Dakota have broader protections for employees out-of-work lawful activities that could encompass politics. 107 But even in those states, employees real-world protection is limited because of a combination of statutory exceptions and narrow interpretations by courts. For example, courts have narrowed nearly out of existence Californias law protecting employees off-duty activities.108
2. Religious expression at work
3. Employee speech on social media
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Challenges To Freedom Of Speech In The American Constitution
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In todays world, it can be easy to say whatever one wants to say about whom ever. This holds especially true with social media at our fingertips. In reality though, the freedom of speech and expression have not always been easily accessible to the American public. The freedom of speech is that which allows for the American individual to speak up and to preserve justice, not just live in a peaceful state of oppressive order. The freedom of expression on the other hand, is what allows the American Individual to live the American Dream and to demonstrate a state of being that is of a free person, an individual. A lot of times throughout history these freedoms were more of privileges than they were rights. Events ranging from the changing of government parties to the red scare have came along to challenge the freedom of speech and expression of the American people.
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Do I Have Any Free Speech Rights As A Private Employee
Your free speech rights may be protected by state or federal employment law. While each state has its own laws on free speech in the workplace, the federal National Labor Relations Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 apply across the country. These laws protect certain types of speech in the workplace.
The NLRA protects your concerted activities for mutual aid or protection.1 This includes speech between employees or co-workers about their working conditions, including discussions about:
- collective bargaining.
According to the National Labor Relations Board , this employment right stretches to include posts on social media, even if those posts include other types of speech that do not have workplace free speech protections, including profanity.2
Title VII, meanwhile, protects your right to speak out against discrimination or harassment in the workplace. If you make a claim of harassment or discrimination, you are protected from adverse employment actions. If your employer takes materially adverse action against you for making the claim, it can amount to retaliation.3
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D A Note On The First Amendment And Public Employees
This paper focuses mainly on private-sector workers who cannot rely on the Constitutions free speech guarantee. But what about public-sector workers? First, the good news: public employees are covered by many of the statues discussed above, such as the anti-retaliation provisions of Title VII and various whistleblower protections. Further, many public employees are covered by some version of just-cause, rather than at-will, employment. Just over one-third of public employees are covered by a union contract,136 and others may enjoy similar tenure or civil-service protections. These substantive protections are also backed up by constitutionally required procedural protections public employees who have a reasonable expectation of continued employment are entitled to notice and an opportunity to respond before they can be fired, plus a more formal post-termination hearing.137
Freedom Of Speech Raises Awareness About Important Issues
Freedom of speech is a powerful tool for raising awareness about important issues with the power to mobilize entire communities for positive action. One of the most effective ways to do this in recent years has been through the use of social media platforms.
Individuals can easily share their thoughts and opinions with large groups worldwide through these platforms. This reach allows information to spread quickly, giving it a greater chance of reaching those who might not have heard it. Many important issues can be brought to attention using freedom of speech, such as:
- Climate Change: Activists and scientists are using their right to free speech to disseminate information about the causes and consequences of climate change and potential solutions.
- Gender Equality: By exercising their right to free speech, activists are utilizing the power of the public platform to point out how gender inequality negatively affects both individuals and society while also championing equal rights and opportunities for all genders.
- Human Rights: Activists use their freedom to speak up and bring attention to inhumane acts such as forced labor, child soldiers, and torturewith their mission being for human rights protection for everyone.
- Immigration: Enthusiasts of this issue deploy their right to self-expression to create understanding about both the difficulties and benefits of immigrants and fight for fair immigration laws.
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Freedom Of Speech In The Workplace
On January 6th, a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the Presidential election. Five people died, including a Capitol Police officer, and many were injured. Americans watched on TV as the violent mob damaged property and bragged about taking over the chambers. On social media, videos of the chaos inside the Capitol quickly surfaced, and Americans were horrified to see the rioters taking selfies, parading with the confederate flag, and desecrating property.
On January 7th, some of the individuals present at the Capitol riot were fired from their jobs. Once employers identified employees participating in such acts, they felt that they had no other alternative than to terminate employment. In todays highly charged political environment, where is the line between freedom of speech and job security? The First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution protects the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of press, and the right to peacefully assemble and petition the government. But to what extent does this freedom apply to the workplace?
In general, the First Amendment applies to employees in the public or government sector, but it does not apply to those working in private organizations. However, there are some gray areas that can be confusing and risky.
Here are some guidelines to help you navigate this potentially charged matter:
What Is Freedom Of The Press
The First Amendment also provides that the government cannot abridge the freedom of the press. As with freedom of speech, government at every level is prohibited from interfering with the media. It cannot force the media to publish any material and it cannot prohibit the media from publishing any material, unless, of course, it violates any of the limitations noted above.
As with freedom of speech, there are some limits on freedom of the press. For example, reporters sometimes rely on confidential sources to give them information about what is going on inside the government or a business. There are, however, laws that prohibit leaking certain kinds of information to the press. A reporter who publishes information that has been leaked in violation of the law can be forced to attend a hearing or investigation and required to identify their source.
In the past, reporters have spent time in jail rather than disclose their sources to law enforcement. This is an ongoing area of conflict between the government and the media.
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Relationship To Other Rights
The right to freedom of speech and expression is closely related to other rights. It may be limited when conflicting with other rights . The right to freedom of expression is also related to the right to a fair trial and court proceeding which may limit access to the search for information, or determine the opportunity and means in which freedom of expression is manifested within court proceedings. As a general principle freedom of expression may not limit the right to privacy, as well as the honor and reputation of others. However, greater latitude is given when criticism of public figures is involved.
The right to freedom of expression is particularly important for media, which plays a special role as the bearer of the general right to freedom of expression for all. However, freedom of the press does not necessarily enable freedom of speech. Judith Lichtenberg has outlined conditions in which freedom of the press may constrain freedom of speech. For example, if all the people who control the various mediums of publication suppress information or stifle the diversity of voices inherent in freedom of speech. This limitation was famously summarised as “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one”. Lichtenberg argues that freedom of the press is simply a form of property right summed up by the principle “no money, no voice”.
You Have A Contract Or Collective Bargaining Agreement Providing Additional Protections
In every state but Montana, workers in the US typically work under at-will employment agreements, which means that the employer can fire the worker at any time for any reason .
However, some employees work under contracts that require the employer to show just cause for firing. If this is your situation, your employer would have to show that your speech negatively impacted your work performance or posed a threat to their business interests in order to fire you.
A few municipalities also have restrictions on at-will employment arrangements for specific workers. For example, New York City has additional protections for fast food workers and Philadelphia has additional protections for parking attendants, according to a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute. The New York City law requires that employers have just cause to fire fast-food workers and that they must show the workers performance has been unsatisfactory or their activities are materially harmful to the employers business.
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What Rights Do Employers Have
Given the above, it might appear at first glance that employers lack the ability to control their employees in any meaningful way. Not so. While it is certainly true that public employers are subject to more limitations than private employers, virtually all employers possess the ability to prohibit their employees from performing the types of actions that are the most damaging to their business. As described above, those actions include, but are not limited to:
- Illegal Speech hate speech, racial slurs, harassing speech, discriminatory speech, retaliatory speech, defamation, fraud, disclosure of trade secrets, disclosure of proprietary information, and disclosure of most types of confidential information
- Unprofessional Speech speech that is rude, unprofessional, threatening, profane, insulting, uncivil, or discourteous in tone or appearance
- Customer Speech speech directed at customers, speech that involves the disclosure of private customer information
- Gripes speech that consists merely of griping and that is not intended to improve an employees wages, benefits or working conditions
- Speech During Working Time speech while employees are on-the-clock and
- Disruptive Speech speech that affects an employees job performance or the performance of their co-workers.
Companies Should Be Stopped From Trying To Silence Their Employees
CAN YOU really lose your job for posting an opinion on Twitter, or even for clicking like on somebody elses message? Surprising though it may be to employees who expect firms to indulge their odd working hours, their tastes in coffee and their pets, the answer is often yes. Pascal Besselink, an employment lawyer in the Netherlands, reckons that about one in ten abrupt sackings there is connected to behaviour on social media.
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Controversial opinions were once expressed in bars after work, and went no further. Today Twitter and other social media broadcast employees thoughts they also make it easy for anyone who is offended to put together a mob and retaliate against the poster and their employer. Jittery firms respond by sacking the offender. Some, like General Motors, have introduced conduct codes which police workers speech even when they are not at work.
A firm may judge its self-interest correctly when it punishes workers who speak out. Americas National Basketball Association probably lost hundreds of millions of dollars this season because of a Chinese blackout imposed after the general manager of the Houston Rockets tweeted in support of democracy in Hong Kong. Sacking him would have been costly, toobut not that costly.
This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “Woking nine to five”
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I Work For A Private Employer And Am Told That It Is Against Company Policy To Discuss Politics Or Religion With Customers Does That Violate My Freedom Of Speech
No, the First Amendment does not limit private employers. The Bill of Rights and the First Amendment limit only government actors, not private actors. This means that private employers can restrict employee speech in the workplace without running afoul of the First Amendment. Private employees would have to rely on other sources of law to seek relief in court.
Public employers also can set rules for employee behavior in the workplace. However, public employers are government actors and are subject to the limitations of the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment.