A man was demoted at work because he posted on his private Facebook page that he doesn’t agree with same sex marriage occurring in a church.
Nick Griffin claims discrimination is a right, even if that means threatening a gay couple on Twitter.
These are just two examples of news articles this week which involve the fragility of freedom of speech and social networking sites.
But where does freedom of speech and privacy end and the lack of privacy on social networking sites begin? Is it considered acceptable to post threatening and abusive comments on the internet? Is it any less acceptable to post your opinion in a non-threatening way on the same sites?
The two incidents above are very different cases where people have been wronged. Nick Griffin’s comments, I believe, are completely horrific. To post up the private home address of anybody on the internet is unacceptable. How many times are we told that private information such as your address, phone number and bank details should not be shared online? So I’m not sure which planet Nick Griffin was on when he thought it okay to post someone else’s address.
The severity of the situation has drawn the attention of the powers that be who control Twitter, his account was temporarily suspended and the offending tweet taken down. The police are said to be involved, something which I thoroughly support.
This man’s actions could have led to any number of incidents. Not only did he suggest that someone was going to visit the address and give the couple ‘a bit of drama’ but by posting up such information put the two men’s lives at risk. Many people will have seen that information and I can guarantee that some of them would agree with Nick Griffin’s discriminatory views. There are some people in this world who take things too far, Nick Griffin is very lucky that nothing more serious occurred as a result of his stupidity.
Now let us return to the case of the man who was demoted at work. He posted a news article about gay marriage in church with the status set to ‘An equality too far’. Let’s get this straight; it was his private Facebook page. He posted his opinion of a news article which stated he didn’t agree with same sex marriage being allowed in a church. He was demoted from his job and left with a 40 per cent pay cut.
As a supporter of gay rights you may assume that I think this treatment fair. I don’t.
I don’t agree with the man’s opinion, nor do I agree with the way he shared his opinion. But that’s not to say that his opinion was unfair, or discriminatory. He didn’t slander anybody, he didn’t call for gay people to be injured, he didn’t even say he disagrees with gay marriage. He merely doesn’t think it should happen in a church. Whether you agree with him or not is neither here nor there.
Would he have been demoted had he thought Lady Gaga had gone too far when dressing in one of her crazy ensembles? Should he have lost his job if he’d said that David Cameron had gone too far on his policies for the NHS? What about if he thought the government were going too far forcing benefit ‘scroungers’ into work opportunities?
The answer to the above questions is undoubtedly, no.
The difference between his viewpoint and that of Nick Griffin’s is that he updated his status on a private account (not an account that he specifically uses for work as Nick Griffin’s is). He shared an opinion about a general topic with his Facebook friends, whereas Nick Griffin made obvious threats towards a specific couple.
There have been many incidents over the last few years where people have been suspended, sacked or demoted for various states of comments on social networking sites. There have been as many homophobic and racially motivated verbal attacks on individuals. With the continual usage of social networking and the infiltration of it into the workplace, it’s likely that such issues will continue to occur.
The main question is, where do you draw the line between opinions/freedom of speech and that step too far?