Don’t Like The Wrong Thingson May 11, 2012 at 12:00 am
Can someone please fill me in here? In the last decade, it seems that the civil liberties of the people of this country have been in constant bombardment from the government and corporations! I’m sure we can all think of a few good reasons why, but that’s another debate. What I really want to talk about today is what constitutes as a civil right, something personal and private, when it relates to the internet. We all know that the internet isn’t private, however there, in theory, should be some sort of reasonable sense of separation from your personal online habits and the interests of groups such as the government, companies, and other third parties.
So what got me all sparked up by this was a recent court verdict that made use of Facebook “liking” grounds for dismissal from your job or any other organization AND the act of liking not subject to the First Amendment. Liking, for those who don’t use social media, is just clicking the little “Like” buttons on most websites, including mine (HINT), and links that somehow to your personal Facebook page. At the face value, it’s pretty harmless. It’s like favoriting(?) or bookmarking a webpage or article, but linking it publicly to yourself. Really now, it’s just another social media thingy that people are into, but at the end of the day, it’s fairly pointless and doesn’t mean anything. BUT, some jerkwad Sherif decided to fire his employees when he found out that they “liked” through Facebook his opponent during an election. One thing led to another, yada yada yada, and the courts decided that this was fine. Nope, totally not discrimination at all. Even though it is.
Besides finding out how terrible our legal system is set up, what have we learned from this? Well, we have already heard that anything you post, comment, or blog about online can be used against you by a company or organization if it deems it conflicting with their values. So if you say “Company X sucks” on your blog, they can take legal action. If you say “Company X sucks” and you work for them, you can be fired! If you say “Company Y is awesome” and you work for Company X, then you can be fired! Hell, they have gone so far as to request (legally) you Facebook login and password when applying for jobs (and universities). To some, this is a grossly obvious miscarriage of the Constitution. Which, as you know, it is. The First Amendment protects your right to free speech. Sure, there’s some things you can’t say, but those things are very few and far between. The spirit of the amendment was to protect your ability to speak your mind freely and without backlash. While we can argue that it was a bit narrower, meaning you won’t go to jail for spouting off, and while it won’t protect you from getting the cold shoulder from your friends and neighbors, it stands to reason that it would also extend far enough to protect your civil rights in the workforce as well. Even beyond that, you shouldn’t lose your medical insurance if you “Like” holistic medicine. But for right now, it looks like what happens in the hours surrounding 9 to 5, anything and everything you do can get your fired.
Officially, from the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, you can’t discriminate against ” race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” (unless advertised upfront, then they can be all kinds of bigots). With a further case law and whatnot prohibiting discrimination based on pregnancy, political affiliation, language, citizenship, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. But that STILL leaves a lot of room for companies to discriminate against you. Heck, in some jurisdictions, they can fire or not hire you because of your height or weight. So stuff like hair color, tattoos, the music you like, favorite color, or any of the hundreds of other stupid reasons people use to perpetuate hate against their fellow man are still available as ammunition for the firing squad.
My point is this… A company has 0 (zero, zed, nada, nothing) rights to discriminate against anything more than how productive you are. Obviously if you don’t do your job then out you go. But if you are in any way different, then logically there’s no reason for all this angst! Really now! What does it matter if I have a mutton chops? If I do the same work as someone sans-mutton then what’s the difference? Besides me looking much cooler…
Back to the original topic though… The internet is probably the single most significant creation of the last, well, ever. It has brought the collective knowledge of the whole of humanity in one place, breaking the bonds of classes, and spreading instantaneous communications between the people of every nation. But with that, we have to take the good and the bad. As it is now, the internet is something of a wild west. The intent and the use are two different things and I guess we need to start clarifying how we plan to regulate and enforce things like civil rights. Because anonymity is pretty much just a facade, we must consider the consequences of our actions and fight for our rights. Above all other things, we HAVE to uphold the First Amendment. It is #1 on the list for a reason. The ability to speak one’s own mind without recourse (besides getting called out for BS or trolled) is the absolute foundation of our most basic human rights. It is the expression of our individuality and it can NOT be used in any shape or form as a means for discrimination. I personally believe that every one of us has a voice and should be able to speak our minds. Sure, there are certain times and places where this may not be appropriate (like, I keep my site mostly friendly, so anything really mean, especially towards yours truly, gets permabanned) but on the level of law and employment, there is absolutely no reason for the things you do or believe in on a personal and public level to be used against you. That means, firing you because you “like” Wallmarts when you work at Target should not get you fired. It is discrimination based on your personal preferences and despite the conflict in interest, as long as you are performing your job at an acceptable level, then there’s no reason for any of these shenanigans!
On the other hand, what if someone was working at a daycare center and Facebook “likes” NAMBLA? Think I might have to play my hypocritical trap card with that one cause I probably wouldn’t be ok with it. But this isn’t about me… I can be contradictory. >)
Oh, and if the lawyers of that Facebook case are reading this, then you should really play the “can’t discriminate against political affiliation” card because even though it’s not, apparently, a First Amendment issue, I’d wager my lunch money that you can get them on a Civil Rights violation. It’s ok if you didn’t think of it. You can send me a 10% consultation fee… XD
Source: Courthouse News
Anyways, what do you guys think?