Should Employers Be Able To Control Your Freedom Of Speech Online?

I am going to start this off by giving a slight personal opinion on a current event. i do not think that Boston, Massachusetts is equipped to handle the 2024 Summer Olympics. We had a few feet of snow- something that happens pretty much every year- and the entire city essentially shut down. The Beanpot was last night and I thought the Green LIne was going to implode. I God forbid I even bring up the “Big Dig”. While it may be the national beacon for professional sport championships, colonial history and chowder, Boston still is a relatively small area and simply cannot fit something as big as the Summer Olympics.

Now I have every right to say this because I do not work for the city of Boston. Recently Major Marty Walsh’s office announced that the employees of the city are no longer allowed to bash the idea of Boston hosting the Olympics on their social media accounts. This has raised many questions about whether or not this is a violation of the First Amendment. This poses an interesting question overall: should employers have the right to tell you what you can and cannot post on your own personal social media account? Even though you are an employee of a company, you still are a citizen of the United States. It is the basic foundation of our country to be able to say whatever you want without any repercussions. At the same time, you sign contracts to be a part of an organization. Is it technically okay that they say that you have forfeited your constitutional rights to be a part of a separate entity?

Source: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/01/21/boston-city-employees-told-not-badmouth-olympics/J7JFBrq2YGkWGzqP42PQZO/story.html

Mayor Walsh signed a formal agreement with the USOC that bans city employees from criticizing Boston’s bid, documents show.

Walsh’s office actually has some pretty good points for initiating this decree against the city’s employees. The amount of tourism and notoriety that Boston would receive on a global scale would be enormous. Employee’s saying anything bad about the Olympics being in Boston would show a lack of unity within the city. It takes an extremely large effort to be the city chosen as the host city, and part of that is that the Olympic Committee needs to see that the city actually wants to the Olympics to be there. It is not exactly a good look if the very employees that will be aiding in the hosting process do not want the Olympics to be there. Yet at the same time, how can a Mayor that has has such high public sentiment so far in office, say that he is a mayor of the people if his office is literally controlling the opinions of their employees?

The First Amendment is basically the ideas on which this company was founded. We gloat as Americans because we are supposedly supposed to be able to give our opinion on any subject and not be persecuted for it. This is why many people will argue that a company should have any say what you can or cannot say in your personal life. Some people argue that you should not have to worry about posting pictures on Facebook or tweeting something questionable because it is your right as a citizen to say and post whatever you want. Meanwhile interviewers and employers have openly said that questionable tweets or pictures would prevent them from hiring certain candidates. A lot of employees and people in Boston are saying the Mayor Walsh has no authority to say that employees cannot badmouth the olympics.

In my opinion, I would have to side with Marty Walsh and employers.  I believe that when you enter a contract with an individual entity, you are a representative of their own image. You should never be able to do anything that jeopardizes the company as a whole. Walsh is not saying that the people cannot have an opinion on the matter. It is just that you should not put anything anything online that jeopardizes the unity of the city’s aims. As we know, anything put on the Internet is there for good. If I was mayor, the last thing I would want would be my own employee’s to be directly contradicting me online.

3 comments

  1. Freedom of speech has undoubtedly been a touchy subject not only in the US but throughout the world. I think this subject also gets a little more interesting when you look at countries that don’t necessarily get the same privileges and rights us Americans do. A good example, were the protests in Hong Kong over democracy. In a country where much of the online content is being censored, we still see thousands and thousands of people putting on demonstrations for rights. The cool part about these events is that they are mostly centered around social media as their medium of choice. Through social media there has been an explosion of free speech like never before, which has also stirred up a lot of controversy. In regards to Boston, I agree on both of your points. Boston is not ready for the Olympics and companies should be able to monitor your online activity. However when it comes to fundamental rights and very emotional topics, free speech should rule. Great post!

  2. We’ll have a guest speaker later in the semester who will address these issues head-on. This situation is actually a far more nuanced one (whether you knew it or not). 1) Freedom of speech only applies to the government. Companies can fire you for any reason they want 2) the question here is whether the city is the government or the employer. I honestly don’t know. Of course, there are also plenty of ways to make someone’s life miserable without actually firing them. We’d have to see what happens when somebody disobeys the order.

  3. Very interesting post! It’s fascinating because of all the people who would know if Boston is ready for hosting the olympics, it would be the Boston city officials. However, I understand the concern that Mayor Walsh and others have about employees taking to the internet with their opinions about Boston 2024 and the chance of it hurting the big. In the end, it will be up to the Olympic Committee to decide whether Boston is capable of hosting the Olympic games and as painful as it is to have one’s opinions and viewpoints hushed, it is part of the contact an employee signs with an employer, to not slander and attack the business. I remember this summer when I was interning at a large firm, the trainers kept stressing how important it was for us to be extremely careful of what we put online about work related topics. Anything that my company could be involved in is essentially off-limits for me to be posting my opinions about online. And I completely agree with this regulation. However, I wonder if there could be a way for Boston City officials to express their opinions without it necessarily hurting the Boston 2024 bid. In some ways, winning the big to host the Olympics would be an amazing step forward for Boston, but if it involves serious problems to the city, its residents and employees, then there needs to be more of an open dialogue on this matter, even if it could be detrimental to Mayor Walsh’s political agenda.

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