Freedom of Expression in a Socially Connected World

While most Americans celebrate the Fourth of July holiday with hot dogs and fireworks, it’s important to note that there is a greater meaning behind the festivities. Independence Day marks a milestone in American history. It’s the day Americans declared their independence from Great Britain. The liberties that Americans enjoy are a direct result of the actions taken 239 years ago.

As the country evolved into the modern United States, the ideas of freedom of speech and expression have become cornerstones of society. In the past if you wanted to send a message to a large group of people, you needed access to publishing, which is costly and only available to a select few. The emergence of social media has changed the way we express ourselves. New technologies allow us disseminate ideas across millions of people, both cheaply and instantly. 

There’s no doubt that social media has given us a way to express ourselves never before possible. However, with our new freedoms, there is a great responsibility.

“I have often said that individuals have freedom of speech, but not freedom from the consequences of that free speech,” says attorney Daniel J. Burnick.

This responsibility is especially great for businesses that engage with social media. They have a responsibility to protect their brand and reputation. They have to adhere to industry regulations. They have to safeguard sensitive customer information. Even one misguided or inappropriate employee post on a social media platform can jeopardize the heath and livelihood of a firm.

For these reasons, businesses need a clear social media compliance policy. Social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, are constantly monitoring and filtering for what they deem inappropriate content, such as violent, illegal, pornographic content. But it’s up to private businesses to take it a step further to protect their own interests. Trial lawyer Raphael O. Gomez wrote in the New York Times that private business users can “flag” content thought to be inappropriate for review and removal if necessary. Social media software platforms help businesses get the benefits of social networks yet mitigate the inherent risks.

On this Fourth of July we can reflect on the vision of America’s founders. They knew that it was important to make sure everyone was part of the conversation. Even so, they could not have imagined today’s technology. While it’s crucial to safeguard the liberties we enjoy today, it doesn’t mean that there are no consequences of those freedoms. Businesses have a special responsibility to protect their livelihood and their customers’ information.