NOTE: Go back and read parts 1, 2 and 3 of this series if you have not already. It provides a wonderful basis for this.
Technology trends always have the potential to create tension in the workplace. The rapid growth of social media and internet access are two such trends. The use of popular social media sites by public employees is creating an environment where first amendment rights may be restricted. The courts have just begun developing frameworks (Ryan 2012) for analyzing employee’s first amendment protection claims. These frameworks will change over time.
Discipline of employees in response to use of social media almost always occurs for one of two reasons. Either the employee used bad judgment and did not recognize the boundary between professional and personal social media use (Dutta 2010), or the employer failed to codify and communicate the acceptable use of the technology by the employees.
Employees should recognize that not all speech is protected by the first amendment, and that employers can restrict their public speech, as proven by the courts (Thalacker & O’Mara, 2012). The ultimate responsibility for the protection of speech resides with the employee as they take care to thoughtfully manage their communications within the limits set by their employers.
Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (2011). CTIA Advocacy: 50 Wireless Quick Facts. Retrieved from http://www.ctia.org/advocacy/research/index.cfm/
Dutta, S. (2010, November). What's Your Personal Social Media Strategy. Harvard Business
Review, pp. 127-130.
Facebook (2012). Newsroom: Fact Sheet. Retrieved from http://newsroom.fb.com/
International Telecommunications Union (2010). The World in 2010: ICT Facts and Figures. Retrieved from http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/material/FactsFigures2010.pdf
Nielsen (2011). State Of The Media: The Social Media Report Q3 2011. Retrieved from
Papandrea, M. R. (2012). Social Media, Public School Teachers, and the First Amendment.
Boston College Law School Faculty Papers. Paper 390.
Ryan, J. (2012, March). Facebook and the First Amendment Rights of Police Officers. Legal &
Liability Risk Management Institute E-Newsletter.
Thalacker, L. J., & O'Mara, C. M. (2012, November). Public Employees and The First
Amendment: The Intersection of Free Speech Rights and Social Media. Nevada Lawyer,