BUS-L360 Topics in Business Ethics: Ethics & Freedom of Speech in Ethics
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution provides a so-called right to “freedom of speech.” This right applies when the government seeks to restrict or punish speech, but many view “freedom of speech” as an important right that should go beyond just limiting government restrictions on speech. In the business world, issues related to speech arise in numerous contexts, including: whether companies should restrict employees’ speech; when companies should speak up about important social issues; and when and how social media companies should “police” speech on their social media platforms (if at all). All of these issues raise ethical (and sometimes legal) issues because speech, as well as any efforts to privately regulate it, can have profound effects on a company, its employees, its consumers, and maybe even society in general. In this class, we will explore specific legal and ethical concerns that arise when companies, their employees, or their consumers engage in speech that companies can regulate in some manner. We will do so by reviewing materials that explain the importance of freedom of speech, as well as case studies and related articles that highlight specific instances in which companies have had to resolve thorny “freedom of speech” issues. The course will focus primarily on practical ethics, but we will also use more formal ethical frameworks as tools to help resolve some of these complicated ethical issues.