First Amendment and Social Media Don’t Mix

First Amendment and Social Media Don't MixWe feel it in our bones.  Free speech is a cornerstone of our democracy, and the First Amendment guides many of our core beliefs.  It shapes how we think as Americans and how we view ourselves compared to the rest of the world.  But guess what?  The First Amendment and social media don’t mix.

Yes, you can say practically anything online, often without legal consequence, but the First Amendment won’t protect you from losing your job, your livelihood or your reputation – and sometimes you lose all three.

Earlier this week, Hayley Geftman-Gold, a vice president and attorney for CBS, wrote on her Facebook page that she was not sympathetic to victims of the Las Vegas shooting because, she claimed, most country music fans are Republican.  She was quickly fired.

Geftman-Gold wrote: “If they wouldn’t do anything when children were murdered I have no hope that Repugs will ever do the right thing. I’m actually not even sympathetic bc country music fans often are Republican gun toters.”

Nothing illegal about her comments.  Her argument is insensitive and idiotic but well within her right to free expression as an American.  Yet even a law license and a thorough understanding of the First Amendment didn’t help her keep her job.

Last year, United Airlines Pilot Michael Folk was suspended after tweeting that Hillary Clinton should be hanged for treason.  Folk, who also serves in the West Virginia House of Delegates, let his political leanings, and some despicable word choices, directly impact his income.  Again, he has every right to say it, but his employer didn’t, and shouldn’t, allow it.

Also last year, a Miami man went on an epic rant about the election in a local coffee shop.  His disparaging words were captured on video and posted online, turning him into a viral sensation.  The self-employed man lost clients almost immediately and is still rebuilding his tattered reputation. Did he say stuff that was offensive?  Yes.  Illegal or slanderous or defamatory?  No.  Yet severe punishment was meted out by the marketplace.Read More

Post-Election Social Media Posts Could Haunt Your Online Reputation

Trump Or HillaryA week removed from the craziest presidential election in modern times, and we continue to feel the aftermath, particularly on social media sites where the avalanche of memes, gifs and rants continues to raise hackles on both sides of the political aisle.  Two days ago, I resisted the urge to perform my first “un-friending” on Facebook after receiving an inane reply to one of my posts.  Because I strive to be politically tolerant, I have moved past it.

Regardless of who you voted for, and I have close friends on both sides, I think we can agree that many of the election reactions were unfortunate.  An official in a West Virginia town was fired for a post-election racist tweet.  A Maryland school superintendent was criticized for an allegedly “anti-white” Twitter post.  And even Oprah Winfrey caught heat for her online reaction to the first meeting between President Obama and President-Elect Trump.

While the typical person’s online reaction to the election may not be vitriolic, we should all be aware that posts made online can remain forever.  Sure, your morning-after musings may now be deep in your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feeds, but they are still there nonetheless – and they can be found via search engines or just a small level of sleuthing.  Many of these posts will stay online forever, and I think that many of the things being said by folks on both sides will be regretted in the days, weeks and months ahead.Read More

Marketing by Ron Burgundy

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One day soon (it was supposed to be tonight), fictional newsman Ron Burgundy will guest host ESPN’s signature newscast “Sportscenter.”  If you don’t like sports and haven’t seen the 2004 classic comedy “Anchorman,” then you may not know what I’m talking about.  I can guarantee this will change over the next two weeks as the publicity machine for Will Ferrell’s “Anchorman 2” hits full stride in ways that movie marketing has never seen before.  In advance of the movie’s December 18 release, Ferrell and “Anchorman 2” are changing the way movies are publicized by going far beyond action-packed trailers and media tours.Read More