- Posted by Francesca Dimunno
Social media: is it possible to incur penalties or even to be fired for writing offensively about one’s employer in a chat?
Nowadays social media have become an integral part of our daily life, and we live in an era where we are all permanently “on-line”. In Italy there are estimated to be 34 million users who spend a large portion of their time writing on social media and interacting with virtual friends.
Social media have therefore become communication tools.
It is essential to understand where the thin borderline lies between public conversations and private and confidential ones and, above all, in what circumstances we can be held responsible for what we have written on social media. Is it possible to be fired for writing offensively about one’s employer in a chat?
On this point the Supreme Court delivered judgement no. 21965/2018 which states that in the resolution of these issues we must observe and abide by article 15 of the Italian Constitution, which establishes that “freedom and confidentiality of correspondence and every other form of communication are inviolable”. The freedom and confidentiality of correspondence are extended to e-mail messages as well as messages exchanged in any other electronic form. In light of this principle, messages exchanged within private or closed chats, as happens on social networks, must be considered private and therefore anything written or disclosed cannot constitute an offence. Private chats or groups exist within social networks and one can interact with the group and/or its members only if one is a registered member.
Therefore, in answer to the query, if a worker in a private chat were to write an offensive message about his employer, the worker could not be fired. This, according to the Supreme Court, is because what is exchanged within private chats does not spread to the outside world.
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