Monday, May 21, 2018

Glen Cove’s Proposed Code Of Conduct Sparks Debate Over Facebook & Free Speech

GLEN COVE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Lawmakers on Long Island are getting ready to vote on a controversial proposal, which involves whether the local government can dictate what its workers share on social media.

As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, freedom of expression has never been freer than it is online, but what you post can pose a problem in the workplace.

Following the lead of private companies, Glen Cove is about to launch its own Facebook page. But first, the mayor is drafting a code of conduct that would restrict publicly posted comments from city workers.

“We don’t want them to put things up there that aren’t correct, that are inaccurate in some way, that will mislead the public,” Mayor Timothy Tenke said.

Nothing would be allowed that might “negatively affect the public perception of the city, office of the mayor or individual departments.” But that has some city council members concerned about free speech.

“We want to ensure that employees have their first amendment rights and do not feel that’s being trampled on,” City Councilman Joseph Capobianco said.

Capobianco argues municipalities are different from private companies and employees, as citizens, have the right to comment on their government.

“I think there should be no restrictions on their ability to comment on the job we are doing,” he said.



Anonymous said...

If someone put up something the city thinks is incorrect then they ought to feel free to reply with their own side of the story. It's called "debate", it's pretty much the opposite of censorship.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:40:

Sorry, but no. This has nothing to do with "debate."

Government employees have a different relationship as employees and the Supreme Court has laid out what is come to be known as the "Pickering - Connick Test" (named after two cases, Pickering v. Board of Education in 1968 and Connick v. Myers in 1983.)

First, one must determine if the speaker is acting as a government employee, or a private citizen. Generally speaking, the content of a citizen's speech has more protection than that of an employee.

Still, in either case, for the speech to be protected, it must be of "public interest," and it may not affect the morale, discipline and good order of the place at which the employee works.

For example, worker Smith posts that Representative Jones comes to work drunk. Jones is in fact a teetotaler and the statement disrupts the office. He can be fired.

Another example, worker Smith posts that Representative Jones is skimming money from funds. Smith cannot be fired (irrespective of whistleblower acts) as the post is of public concern.

Third example, citizen Smith (not identifying as a government employee) writes "my manager sucks." That's not something that someone can be terminated for as the person is speaking outside of their employment and not on matter of public interest.

The bottom line is that the First Amendment does not offer total immunity to speech by government workers, nor does it allow the same rules that private industry has where an employee can be fired for almost anything that is said.

Anonymous said...

citizens, have the right to comment on their government

That is what free speech is all about !