Sunday, June 27, 2010

Freedom of InterSpeech

Alright, so this constant monitoring by employers into the social networking sites of their employees is beginning to feel a bit like McCarthyism, if only because they search the personal information of their employees for insubstantial things that have no real bearing on the validity of their employees’ occupation at the business, and fire them for it. Keeping a constant eye out for “subversion” or “un-business like activity” or whatever kind of policy phrases people want to use is ok I guess for big executives and assistants to big corporate players, but it’s kind of absurd when people at a day job in a corner store or a clothing store are getting fired for stuff that’s not even any kind of serious threat to the business’s image.

First, the sites like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, as well as the blogosphere are places where individuals can freely sign up, set up a profile to connect with their own friends, and express their (emotional, physical, religious, etc.) status at the time, in their own space and leisure. It’s not something that’s funded by the business (unless that business starts to advertise one of those websites at its location) or is depended on by that business to bring in income or is connected to these things in anyway. So, there is no real reason or ownership of any content for businesses in these areas of life. The social networking sites are their own enterprises, and the individual’s expression through them are completely within the individual’s right. Their participation and expression of what’s going on in their life is its own hemisphere and separate from anything businesses should be allow to touch or monitor.

Now with that said, it’s a bit different when said hypothetical individuals act stupid and put themselves out there or do directly subversive things on purpose. But I don’t think companies, especially in these times when they possess jobs position and can easily replace anyone they don’t like for the slightest reasons (scary prospect), are too discriminatory in their judgments in what’s considered “subversive”. There was one story in someone’s comment I’ve read about a girl who worked for a popular charity and was selling the personal information of its donors to other top rival companies. Firing her is understandable. Then there are the reports of people that take pictures of themselves with some huge bag of marijuana or some sort of gleaming Smith & Wesson or whatever suggest pride in intoxicated or violent activity. Firing them is understandable. If you have an employees that post racist content against Blacks or Hispanics or Native Americans, especially while working for a company that puts “[So-and-So is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Minorities are encouraged to apply.”] in their job posts, they should definitely be fired.

But reading about a girl who was fired from her job at a pizza store because she expressed frustration at customers in her Facebook status for making her stay an hour past the time she was supposed to leave? Or about a mascot for a baseball team who was fired because he blandly criticized the team’s terrible coaches getting extended contracts? Or a girl who was fired from an administrative assistant job because she quipped in a status here and there about being bored? That is extreme, unnecessary and tyrannical. This is addition to companies who fire people because they talk online about corrupt practices the company is engaging in, instead of fixing their own morals (“we’re here to make money, right?” I can hear someone saying to me). Even the people who put posts online making fun of their bosses should be fully protected by Freedom of Speech if the post does not have a direct name or the poster’s profile does not name the company they are criticizing. There should be a new amendment to national job laws where businesses have to have tangible proof that status or a blog post online did some kind of damage to the company’s reputation or money. Otherwise, there’s no telling where the limits exist to how much employers can control their employees lives.