The First Amendment: How Does It Really Protect You?


In recent events, the First Amendment has been a hot topic in the media.

Laura Ingraham of Fox News has come under fire for comments made toward Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor David Hogg, tweeting that Hogg “whines” about being rejected from the four colleges he applied to. She also stated that Hogg’s “4.1 GPA” was a no-brainer for not being accepted into the UCLA, explaining that it is “totally predictable given acceptance rates.”

In response, Hogg called for a boycott of Ingraham’s advertisers, listing the companies in a tweet made on March 28. Since then, at least 16 sponsors have pulled their ads from “The Ingraham Angle.” Jane Carpenter, Wayfair’s head of public relations,made a statement to CNBC regarding the boycott.

“As a company, we support open dialogue and debate on issues,” Carpenter stated. “However, the decision of an adult to personally criticize a high school student who has lost his classmates in an unspeakable tragedy is not consistent with our values.”

This has ignited the debate over where the First Amendment comes into play to protect our opinions. While Ingraham’s comments were less than tactful, she should have the right to voice her opinions, right?

Technically, yes; but there is a catch. The First Amendment has been set in place to protect citizens from persecution from the government— it does not protect citizens from consequences from private businesses or organizations.

In a CNN article written by constitutional expert Lata Nott, she explains that the First Amendment cannot defend opinions made public by private companies’ employees, such as Ingraham’s tweet. If a particular opinion or statement infringes on a company’s ideas, values, or the safety and operation of their staff and business, then businesses have the “right to discipline their employees’ speech.”

With the advances made in technology like social media, voicing feelings and opinions can be done at the touch of a button. The only drawback to this is the permanence these statements have on the world wide web. You as an American citizen have the constitutionally protected freedom to make your voice heard, but just remember that you are not free from the consequences of your words. As an employee, organization member, or even a student, your ideas can pose as a liability to whoever you choose to represent.

With that in mind, choose wisely.