Do You “Like” Free Speech On Facebook?

“Likes” are free speech — at least according to Facebook, which recently filed a legal brief in support of Daniel Ray Carter and a group of workers who were fired from a Virginia sheriff’s office after they “liked” their boss’s political opponent on Facebook.

Facebook jumped into the legal fray after a federal District Court ruled that “[s]imply liking a Facebook page is insufficient [to qualify as free speech]…It is not the kind of substantive statement that has previously warranted constitutional protection.”

Facebook’s brief states that “If Carter had stood on a street corner and announced, ‘I like Jim Adams for Hampton Sheriff,’ there would be no dispute that his statement was constitutionally protected speech…Carter made that very statement; the fact that he did it online, with a click of a computer mouse, does not deprive Carter’s speech of constitutional protection.”

The full stories can be found on Tecca and Yahoo.

Are Facebook “likes” free speech?  Probably.  Should Carter have been fired for his “like”?  Probably.  Just because you can say something, does not mean that there are no consequences. 

This certainly will be an interesting issue to follow.

Attorney General Fights Unethical Home Improvement Contractors

There is a little known law in the New York General Business Law (Article 36-A) that requires most home improvement contractors to state in writing the services they will provide.  The law is based in ethics and overall good general business practices.  Unfortunately, a lot of contractors are either not aware of the law or they refuse to follow it.

As of a few weeks ago, Article 36-A is no longer a little known law.  New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that he has cracked down on 47 Upstate New York contractors for their ethical, legal and business failings:

Article 36-A of the General Business Law requires that every home improvement contractor, before beginning work, provide the consumer with a written contract, signed by both parties, which sets out certain specific information and disclosures. 

“It happens all too often, homeowners hire contractors without having a signed contract stating what work will be done and how long it will take. And many times, they end up with a much larger bill than expected, or with a project that was never started or completed,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.

“Homeowners need to know their rights and home improvement contractors need to obey the law. My office will fight to protect consumers’ hard earned dollars and ensure that bad contractors are held accountable.”

The full press release from the AG’s Office is available here.  Article 36-A can be read in its entirety here

It kind of goes without saying, but when I hire a landscaper to trim trees along my driveway, a roofer to replace my roof, or an HVAC specialist to fix my AC unit this summer, I’ll be sure make sure get it in writing!

Business Ethics Scorecard

From Ezra Klein:

A new global survey from Ernst & Young finds that companies are more likely to use cash bribes in hopes of improving their performance than they were two years ago: 15 percent of respondents (who included some firms’ chief financial officers) said they are willing to make cash bribes, compared to 9 percent in E&Y’s 2010 survey.

 

Similarly, 5 percent said they “might misstate financial performance” to make themselves look better, compared to 3 percent in the last survey. Ernst & Young explains that bribery and other corrupt practices are significantly more likely to happen in “rapid-growth markets” in the developing world, pointing out that 39 percent of survey respondents said that bribery and corruption occurs frequently in their countries.

The Facebook Password Ethical Dilemma Hits Albany

To follow up yet again on the Facebook password issue (see posts from April 11th and March 24th),

If Albany County Legislature Chairman Shawn Morse has his way, employers won’t be able to look at things potential employees post on Facebook. Unless, it’s done publicly.

Morse says he plans to introduce legislation that would ban county employers from asking for prospective employees’ social media account passwords.

The full story from the Times Union can be found here.

Lawmakers Heed Facebook’s Ethical Advice

Following up on a prior post (March 24th), Maryland has quickly enacted legislation prohibiting employers from asking for social media passwords, and it looks like Congress may be stirring on this issue, too: 

If you’re worried about an employer or potential employer asking for your Facebook or Twitter password, you might just want to move to Maryland. The state’s General Assembly has become the first to pass a bill to keep social media passwords safe from employers.

Just a few weeks ago national attention was put on the issue of job applicants and employees being asked for their Facebook passwords so that companies could ensure the individuals had appropriate social media identities.

In response, New York Sen. Charles Schumer and Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate if the practice violates federal laws.

The full ABC News story can be found here.  Maybe the fired elementary school teacher’s aide should move to Maryland.

Link Ethically

1. Botox is not exempt from New York State sales tax.

2. The power of strategic inferiority.

But sometimes the most successful innovations involve coming up with inferior products, but making them cheaper and more convenient. So it was with the late Murray Lender, former CEO of Lender’s Bagels, who passed away last week at the age of 81.

Rest in peace, Murray.

3. Is there anything wrong with defendants wearing nonprescription glasses?

According to the Post, nonprescription “hipster” glasses have become something of a sensation at Washington, D.C., courthouses. Inmates trade them before hearings or obtain them from family members. Sometimes lawyers give them to their clients.

We all know that wearing glasses doesn’t mean that you are smart, or that you necessarily read a lot. You would think that the frequency of defendants wearing glasses would, at some point, lead people to perceive the wearing of glasses as being indicative of a less trustworthy personality.  See Exhibit “A” below.

4. On “greenwashing,” and the lawsuits related thereto.

As the world increasingly embraces the mantra of green products and services, the legal community is encountering a proliferation of litigation surrounding false and misleading environmental marketing claims. Popularly called “greenwashing,” this recent, albeit alarming, phenomenon merges the concepts of “green” (environmentally sound), and “whitewashing” (to gloss over wrongdoing) to describe the deceptive use of green marketing which promotes a misleading perception that a company’s policies, practices, products or services are environmentally friendly. “Eco-Friendly,” “organic,” “natural,” and “green” are just some everyday examples of widely used labels that can be confusing, even misleading.

At $135 Dollars Per Pet, Wouldn’t it be Unethical to Leave Fluffy to Fend for Herself After the Rapture?

From NPR, “Was Promise of Pet Care After the Rapture a Hoax?” The New Hampshire Insurance Department is investigating Eternal Earth-Bound Pets to determine exactly that.  Here is the company’s website.

Useful info from the company’s FAQ page:

Q: What if one of my family members are left behind. Will you still take possession of my pet?

A: That depends. When the rescuer arrives, if your loved one wants to retain possession of the pet, the pet stays in the home.   We expect in these circumstances that the pet will offer the family member some comfort and stability given the trauma of what has occurred.  If the family member prefers, we will adopt the pet per our contract.

Q: How can your rescuers possibly pay for my pet’s care for only $135.00?

A: The $135.00 fee for one pet is not for the cost of their care.  It is to compensate the rescuers for their travel, cover website expenses, and provide a profit margin.  The rescuers have agreed to adopt your pet as their own and care for them as they do their own pets, at their own expense.