Wednesday, September 18, 2013

SOCIAL MEDIA & FREEDOM OF SPEECH: IT HAS ITS LIMITS


The boundaries of free speech and social media are continuing to be defined.

The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that Liking” something on Facebook is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment.

Daniel R. Carter Jr., formally  of the Hampton Sheriff’s Department, alleged a violation of the First Amendment rights because he was canned for expressing support for the sheriff’s rival in the 2009 election.

Freedom of speech is vital to our democratic system. Without the freedom to analyze, criticize and potentially force governments to reverse and revise policy we would be powerless as individuals.

The boundaries of free expression are often tested in Canada. Take for example the Alberta Court of Appeal decision last year in Pridgen v. University of Calgary, which affirmed that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the free speech rights of university students on campus.

Steven and Keith Pridgen wrote critical comments on Facebook regarding a professor. The University of Calgary prosecuted 10 students who joined the Facebook page, and found all of them guilty of “non-academic misconduct”. The University threatened them all with expulsion if they failed to write an abject letter of apology.

The Pridgens took the University of Alberta to court to affirm their right to free speech.

On the other the B.C. Labour Relations Board upheld thedismissal of pair of workers at a B.C. car dealership that were fired for comments they posted about their employer on Facebook.

The lines are still being drawn in the shifting social media sand.

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