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Lombardy TAR (regional administrative court of law): a like on Facebook may trigger a disciplinary sanction

By way of order No. 246/2016, the third division of the Lombardy TAR faces the issue of the disciplinary significance of the opinion given by a civil servant in a social network, even if given as a private user. In the case at issue, a prison officer was suspended from service for a month for having taken part in a discussion on Facebook, by putting ‘I like’ on a piece of news posted by others and concerning a suicide committed inside the prison in which he worked. In upholding the lawfulness of the measure, the administrative Judges seized have clarified that even a mere like put on a thread on Facebook damaging the image of the employer administration is of disciplinary significance, moreover, if there are also ‘reprehensible comments‘ on the matter under such post (as in the case at issue). In that case, only that ‘I like‘, in the Court of Cassation’s opinion, embarrasses the employer. Well then, in light of the new ways of language introduced by the social networks, the interpretation of case law in such a delicate field will be considerable, in which equally important and constitutional interests are compared, such as the freedom of expression and the right to a ‘private life’, on one hand, and the public interests pertaining to the safety of citizens and to the good state of the administration, on the other hand.