Facebook Antics and Your First Amendment Rights

Well, look who became one of the internet’s most-hated women. I introduce to you Lindsey Stone of Plymouth, MA, who thought it would be gut-busting hilarious to be “loud and disrespectful” in one of the nation’s most hallowed ground, The Arlington Cemetery.

After taking this fine photo, she decided to post it on Facebook at the beginning of November for all the world to see because, hey, isn’t mocking dead soldiers funny? “Whoa whoa whoa…wait,” Ms. Stone wrote. “This is just us, being…d-bags…challenging authority in general. Much like the pic posted the night before, of me smoking right next to a no smoking sign.

Well, it seems many thought there was a huge difference between a no smoking sign (probably in front of a 7-11) and a sign in a consecrated national cemetery duly reminding one of the blood and life that has been spent for your freedoms. As you can imagine, the photo went viral. A page called “Fire Lindsey Stone” was even created that quickly amassed several thousand “likes.” Ms. Stone was immediately put on unpaid leave by her employer and by Thanksgiving she was fired.

For the past week or so, many have cried fowl against Ms. Stone’s employer and have said that her behavior was protected by her First Amendment right to free speech. There have even been those that have said Ms. Stone’s employer was trampling on her Constitutional rights arguing that Ms. Stone should be able to say whatever she wants and no employer can do anything about it. Well, I’m not here to defend Ms. Stone’s behavior and, granted, it was probably not the smartest thing to post the photo for everyone to see, but those that are trying to defend Ms. Stone have somewhat of a misunderstanding of the application of the First Amendment.

Let’s look at what the First Amendment says regarding free speech, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.” While originally applying to Congress’ law-making power, legal cases since the drafting of the Constitution have further interpreted this clause to apply to any federal, state, or local government. So, actions against free speech apply to the government only. Government is the entity that cannot punish someone for their speech.

So what does that mean for private employers? Well, generally (with some exceptions such as malicious or unequal acts) they can be free to fire an employee for the posting of inappropriate content online, whether it was done on or off the job. In the world of free market enterprise, this is a good thing. The Founders did not want to curtail a private entity’s power and ability to rid their company of someone that was damaging a brand or business reputation, or worse yet, leaking out important business data and trade secrets.  Ms. Stone definitely has the right to freedom of speech, but in this case that right should not shield her from her employer wanting to give her the ax.

Remember the old adage, if you fail to plan then you plan to fail. Businesses should always be prepared on how to deal with faux pas that may occur in social media and the internet. At Avalaunch Media we are experts in helping to protect your company from the pitfalls of social media misuse. For more information and to find out how you can start protecting your business, visit us at: https://avalaunchmedia.com/social-media-compliance.

29 thoughts on “Facebook Antics and Your First Amendment Rights

  1. Manage Goals and Objectives says:

    I am happy to find your
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  2. Grover Sargent says:

    Freedom of speech is important, but so is mutual respect. There’s a clear line on what is decent and what is not a decent thing to say out loud.

  3. Tammy Neal says:

    Exactly. Extreme attitude has extreme reactions as a consequence. Exercising your first amendment rights isn’t always a wise move.

  4. Efren Martin says:

    Having the right to say everything and
    anything freely doesn’t mean that it’s always a good idea to do so. Sure,
    it’s the land of free speech, but mutual respect is a part of freedom too.

  5. Kaye Calderon says:

    Agree with the comment about “respectful freedom”. Having the freedom to say anything doesn’t automatically mean that you’re allowed to automatically hate anything in an unpleasant way. Keep your anger to yourself please.

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  7. Meredith ColleenBender says:

    Facebook is not just connection with friends and family. It is a platform to communicate right of free speech. Ms Stone is an example in the above context and the power of social media in advocating changes in authority. (this one is 1 recent news)

  8. Arnold Rosie says:

    Facebook is not just connection with friends and family. It is a platform to communicate right of free speech. Ms Stone is an example in the above context and the power of social media in advocating changes in authority

  9. Enid Zane says:

    A lot of people blow stuff out of proportion. I actually thought the picture was pretty funny, and I think that she had right to post whatever she wanted. Then again, people do have the right to beleive what they want to believe.

  10. Adela Harrington says:

    With the media blocking and controlling our right to say what we want to say, we turn, and speak out online. I understand that the picture was misunderstood, but it was still pretty funny.

  11. Odessa Roy says:

    While sharing is really great, and I do believe that lessons and wisdoms should be spread out into the open, methodologies of work or ingredients to a product, things that make something truly unique, should definitely not be shared.

  12. Dorian Clements says:

    People abuse the ‘freedom of speech’ act too much. It isn’t there for us just to say whatever our small unused brains think of, but to safeguard us from oppressors and tyranny.

  13. Kieth Yong says:

    Freedom of speech is one thing, but the complete lack of manners and respect is totally another. What a rude attitude people have, and all for a FB status update…

  14. Leta Curry says:

    Freedom of speech is good but not in all occasions. Facebook is a public place; we have to think before posting anything. As we misunderstood Lindsey today, it can happen to anybody.

  15. Emery Guerrero says:

    On some occasions, freedom of speech is good but it does not seem good if you represent it all the time. Actually, using it in Facebook looks really weird because it is a public place thus before posting anything one should properly analyze it.

  16. AA Car Transport says:

    Good Article! people must remember FB is open to all and even people you don’t really know can see your posts.

  17. Doc Sheldon says:

    I agree that employers should have the right to rid themselves of any employee that is potentially harmful to their business. We’ve seen instances fairly recently of businesses being held accountable by their public for social media bloopers by individuals.
    That aside, it’s really hard to imagine what level of thought led this idiot to think that such an action would be “funny”, especially to anyone with loved ones residing at Arlington.

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