Do Posts On Facebook Constitute Free Speech?

It is becoming increasingly common for individuals to post comments on their Facebook sites, but as of this point, it has never been clear if those postings are protected under the right of free speech. In Australia, the New South Wales Department of Corrective Services is threatening to fire prison officers who posted remarks on Facebook that were critical of plans by the state government to privatize certain prisons. The emerging issue is how relevant are employment laws in an Internet age in which people constantly speak online and frequently makes outrageous comments just for the heck of it. The private chatter in which people once engaged at a diner are now online and it is unclear whether employers can act against conversations they deem to be antagonistic to their business interests.

Several prison officers in NSW are being told they violated department policies of the Public Sector Employment and Management Act by making critical remarks in public about officials. They are being threatened with anything from a reprimand to being fired. The issue is whether speaking publicly on one’s Facebook site is protected or is it a public comment or am I forbidden to make public comments about my employers?