There are dumb laws and there are terrible laws, and one law trying to make it through the Arkansas state legislature sure looks terrible. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow private employers to require that their employees connect with them on social media, either by becoming friends or providing login information for accounts. There are so many problems with this and so many reasons why it’s a bad idea, but mostly, it flat-out goes against everything that’s fair and right with the world.
As of right now, there is an actual ban on the books that makes it illegal for bosses to ask for access to their workers’ social media accounts. But now, the Arkansas legislature wants to roll that back, taking away workers’ rights to have private lives outside of work and risk having things seen by their higher-ups that they would have never shared voluntarily. Many local groups don’t like it:
“Applicants and employees would be put in a situation where they are no longer in control of their privacy settings and would be forced to disclose information they would otherwise not share with their employer,” the National Network to End Domestic Violence wrote in a Monday letter … co-signed by the Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Also not a fan? The social network itself, Facebook:
“Any legislation that requires employees to give employers access to their private communication is problematic, but this bill goes even further by compelling minors to provide an adult employee or supervisor access to their social media accounts,” the company said in a statement. “As child safety advocates have noted, this could result in inappropriate contact between that adult employee and the minor, jeopardizing the safety not only of the minor, but also the friends with whom they were communicating.”
So, what’s behind this kind of bill that would take privacy rights away from one group of people? Making sure no one talks about bosses behind their backs.
“What we’re trying to do is to just move that line back so that … if say an employee is making slanderous statements about their employer in social media, that the employer has the right to know that,” Rep. Nate Bell (R) said in an interview with a local television station two months ago.
In other words, workers can’t be allowed to have opinions about work outside of work. This isn’t a matter of someone being careless about what they say on Twitter or Facebook and ending up fired because everyone saw it on a publicly available profile. This is about the people who go out of their way to protect what they say by making their profiles private, keeping it out of the public eye, except under this bill, that protection is gone because the boss forced that person to friend them on Facebook. And while the intention of the law is to protect employers (because that’s definitely who needs protecting these days, not workers) from slander or libel, an employer can choose to terminate an employee over anything they don’t like. This is what’s referred to as a “slippery slope,” and no slope can get more slippery than the ever changing social media landscape.
But the bottom line is that while many states are working on laws that deal with social media and workplace relationships, the vast majority of those bills are designed to protect the workers. Just another way Arkansas is backwards.
Source: Washington Post