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Fighting for our users’ anonymous free speech rights

Posted by Joe Freeman

Last Updated 28 July 2022
|4 min read

Joe Freeman is Vice President and Head of Legal at Glassdoor. Joe leads Glassdoor’s efforts to protect and defend the anonymous free speech rights of its users and advocates globally for empowering workers to be able to speak candidly and authentically about their workplace experiences without fear of intimidation or retaliation.

Glassdoor is committed to increasing workplace transparency. We believe in empowering employees to speak authentically and safely about their workplace experiences as a means of supporting their fundamental human dignity, building more equitable workplaces, and, ultimately, creating more just societies.

Nobody likes being criticized, and employers naturally don’t always like what current or former employees have to say about them on Glassdoor. In rare instances, employers threaten us and our users. In even more isolated instances, they file lawsuits against us and/or our anonymous user(s), demanding that we divulge our users’ account information.

A big part of our mission is protecting our users and fighting for their right to anonymous free speech. And, where necessary and appropriate, we fight vigorously in courts around the world to prevent the disclosure of user information.

You may have heard of a very recent example of this. In early 2022, Zuru, a large New Zealand- and China-based toy company, went to federal court in California seeking to compel Glassdoor to turn over identifying information about anonymous New Zealand-based users. These Glassdoor users — multiple former Zuru employees — had posted reviews that described Zuru as a "burnout factory" with a "toxic" culture and "incompetent" leaders. Glassdoor responded with strong legal arguments defending our New Zealand users’ right to speak authentically.

We are deeply disappointed by the Court’s decision in this case. We also recognize that this case is a very rare outlier that was decided by one U.S. judge attempting to interpret New Zealand law. More importantly, the decision is not binding on any other judge, and we do not believe it changes our long and well-established ability to successfully defend our users’ anonymity.

We remain fiercely committed to protecting our users’ anonymity and pursuing our mission of helping job seekers. Our platform provides job seekers with information that previously was hard to get: authentic perspectives and opinions on what it is actually like to work somewhere as shared by those who know a company best, its employees. Frank and candid reviews describing workplace experiences on Glassdoor are possible because of the protection of anonymity. We equip our job seekers with more information for making the critical decision about where to work, which better positions them to flourish and be happy. Companies cannot influence our content moderation decisions by threats or inducements. 

Glassdoor’s steadfast corporate mission and dedication to protecting our users have led to a very strong track record.

  • Over 2.2 million companies have been rated and reviewed on Glassdoor, and we have only been involved in an extraordinarily few of these types of legal battles with employers. 
  • When we are forced to go to court, we almost always prevail in protecting our users’ anonymity. To date, we have succeeded in protecting the anonymity of our users in over 100 cases. 
  • Glassdoor dedicates extensive resources to defending our users’ anonymous free speech rights, including arguing cases in numerous countries around the world. 

I am personally very proud to work at and advocate for a fiercely mission-driven company that is willing to invest in its higher principles and dedicate considerable resources to protecting our users.  

Glassdoor will continue this fight. Our users will continue to post reviews on Glassdoor describing their authentic workplace experiences. Job seekers everywhere will continue to benefit immensely from greater transparency and access to critical information, empowering them to find jobs and companies they love. Potential future employees will continue to learn about the handful of employers who take steps to silence their employees’ voices. 

And, in those extremely rare instances when a company chooses to go to court, there is a strong chance that, like Zuru, they will learn about the “Streisand Effect” and bring far more attention and eyeballs to unflattering reviews or overall negative employee sentiment than the reviews themselves ever would have generated. 

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