The limitations and extensions of free speech: Defamatory Bloggers and Free Speech at Work?

In 2010 case between a finance firm’s owner Mr. Padrick and defamatory blogger Crystal Cox ultimately ruled in favor of the finance firm for reasons that were both fair, justified, and protected the legitimacy and sanctity of the First Amendment.

Essentially, the lowly blogger, Crystal Cox had utilized her own free speech along with an internet platform and hundreds of URL domains to openly slander things, people, and companies she deemed unfit. Through this method of citizen journalism (if you will) Cox alone was able to push her conspiracies and empty allegations onto the top of Google Searches which, for people like Mr. Padrick, spelled disaster for him and his business.

The court’s decision to rule in favor of the Obsidian Finance Group can be superficially glanced at and presumed to be attacking one woman’s free speech but, it instead enforces a new, significant boundary for our First Amendment right in the wake of the digital media age that seems to argue that “speaking freely, requires speaking responsibly,” as there is a civil, non-slanderous way to engage in critique that is not as destructive as the means by which Cox employed.

In August of 2017, the issue of the Google Memo made its way into the public sphere of attention costing the author, a Google Engineer by the name of James Damore, to lose his position at the company. The Washington Post considers this story to be a “Reminder that we generally don’t have free speech at work,” but the problem is, we most certainly do. Although many argue that the federal government’s inability to hinder free speech by lawmaking does not abridge the ability of business to do so, I argue that this constitutional right remains intact even while in the workplace, but it must mind company policy and code of conduct.

Google has stated that they can not tolerate offensive, anti-diversity statements, and they even recognized that the majority of Damore’s article was an acceptable opinion piece and worthy of debate. However, his one claim about Google’s employment being based on stereotypical racial and gender stereotypes can be construed as defamatory to the company and even depict Google as a whole as condoning these claims. For this reason, Google, as an employer was right to terminate Demore from his position.

Overall, freedom of speech is an unalienable right, and the best way to protect your own in professional and legal circumstances is to always use it in a constructive, responsible, and civil manner.