Is Social Media Harming Free Speech?

Author: Adi Gaskell
Published: April 16, 2012 at 5:52 am

grand national fashionSocial media has a reputation for enabling a great freedom of speech across the world.  Events like the Arab Spring lend credence to this belief, as people use social media to rise up against the authorities that have thus far shackled them.

If we look a little closer to home however I have to wonder if we're seeing a restriction in what we can say.  Barely a week goes by without someone making the news for saying something on Facebook or Twitter, only to subsequently be reprimanded by their employer for their words.

The latest such case was Police Constable David Crawford from Merseyside Police.  This weekend saw thousands flock to Aintree race track for the Grand National, arguably the highlight of the British horse racing calendar.  A particular highlight of the event is Ladies' Day, where women are encouraged to glam up, with prizes on offer for the best dressed lady on the day.

The fashion is not to everyone's tastes however, not least PC Crawford, who complained on his Facebook account that Ladies Day was more like Halloween.

He wrote: “Enjoy 'ladies' day – ladies” before accusing them of being “back to drinkLambrini at 10 in the morning watching Jeremy Kyle whilst shouting the kids 'Britney and Tyson come down for ya pork scratching breakfast’.”

He went on to comment on the use of “ten quid fake bake tan....smeared all over the place” and ended with: “Tramps! Ladies Day - more like Halloween! Rant over."

Whilst a glance over photos from the event cannot help but lend some credence to his words, they were not met favorably by his employer.  They have referred his complaint to the police standards department, with the officers Facebook account mysteriously vanishing over night.

With the very real possibility of your online commentary lending you in hot water at work, is it now the case that social media is clamping down on free speech?


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Article Author: Adi Gaskell

A writer on management issues for publications such as Professional Manager, CMI, HRM Today, Business Works and Technorati. I also cover social media for Social Media Today, DZone and Social Business News.

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