Tuesday, August 07, 2012

A Facebook "like" can get you fired, at least in a politically sensitive job; is a Like "speech"?

I don’t know if this belongs on a workplace blog or technical one, but I thought I would pass along a story in PC World by Christine Des Marais, in PCWorld, in the case Bland v. Roberts, where some employees in a sheriff’s office were fired for a Facebook like regarding the sheriff’s political opponent.

It wasn’t immediately clear if this was done on a work computer, or whether that mattered.  

But a federal judge ruled that that a Facebook (or YouTube) like is not “protected speech”.

However, some workplace lawyers said that the action was like having a yard sign for a political opponent. 
Was this job a political appointment?  Was "employment at will" involved?  Maybe not with a public position. 
The PC World story is here
Facebook has said that it wants to look into this matter with its own legal staff.
Ars Technica has a perspective on the “speech” aspect by Venkat  Valasubramani, which deserves more detailed attention latter, probably on my “main” blog on speech issues,.  The AT link is here.

The Scribd copy of the court opinion is here
I could also view this question as a “conflict of interest” issue.

In 1992, I wrote an internal email (by CICS SYSM) critical of the department's laxity in giving out free copies of Procomm to take home for night support.  Management complained to me about it, but I was right, as later developments in copyright law would prove.  

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