Think before pressing send! Internet is a powerful tool

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Facebook and other social media can be fun, interesting, educational — and dangerous.

If people posting on Facebook don’t choose their words carefully they could post something that might cost them friendships and their jobs.

The U.S. legal system has no authority to patch up friendships, but courts have final say over firing of those whose Internet posts were, for whatever reason, cause to be fired.

The National Labor Relations Board recently established that employees could use social media to complain or comment on management without retribution. NLRB rulings involving social media were among the 220 issued in 2012 by the five-person board.

But three of President Obama’s appointments were ruled invalid last week by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. The appointments were not vetted by the Senate.

As a result, the 220 NLRB rulings — including those involving social media — are in limbo.

In one case that went before the NLRB, an employee of an auto dealership was fired for using Facebook to mock a sales event and to post photos of an accident at another dealership owned by the same company. The NLRB sided with the employee.

The direction this will take in the future is unknown.

But we don’t believe employees can badmouth their employers or other coworkers without limits. Postings on the Internet should be viewed as other forms of speech in public places.

The government can’t stop them from saying it, but there are consequences. If the auto dealership employee had been mocking his company’s sales event on a soap box at a crowded mall or in front of customers in the dealership showroom, many people would think the owner was justified in firing that employee.

The Internet — and Facebook in particular — is a powerful forum. A funny or shocking comment that draws attention can go viral — meaning folks across the globe saw it very quickly. As a result, a lot of damage can be done to the reputation of individuals and businesses.

Regardless of how this issue shakes out, the Internet should be used wisely. Problems can easily be avoided if people just think.

Herm Edwards, the passionate, high-energy former NFL coach who is now an analyst for ESPN, is called in to speak to NFL rookies about how they can avoid trouble.

“Don’t press send,” is his first piece of advice. After something is typed on a phone or computer or tablet, do not automatically hit the send button. Instead, think about the consequences of broadcasting that message. Once it is sent, Edwards says to the players, you can never take it back.

That’s good advice for everybody, not just NFL rookies.

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