A Case of Free Speech: Can “Likes” Be Protected by the US First Amendment?

first amendment

Should Facebook “likes” be protected by the First Amendment? Is a web-based mouse-click free speech? What do you recon?

Did you ever consider that the simple act of liking something on Facebook can set up a storm? And yet, Daniel Ray Carter Jr. lost his job as a deputy of Sheriff B. J. Roberts of Hampton, because in 2009 he “liked” a page for a candidate who was challenging his boss: “Jim Adams for Hampton Sheriff.” Aside Carter, Sheriff Roberts fired other five people who “liked” the same page or supported the opponent otherwise.

The employees sued, saying their First Amendment rights were violated, however the judge ruled that a mouse click on a “like” was insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection, because it does not involve actual statements.

Things are, however, a bit more complex, as “likes” are displayed as updates in user’s timeline, and Facebook argued in a friend-of-the-court brief that liking a Facebook Page (or other website) is core speech, because it is a statement that will be viewed by a small group of Facebook Friends or by a vast community of online users. Facebook was then joined by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), with a similar statement:

Whether someone presses a “Like” button to express those thoughts or presses the buttons on a keyboard to write out those words, the end result is the same: one is telling the world about one’s personal beliefs, interests, and opinions. That is exactly what the First Amendment protects, however that information is conveyed.

Both Facebook and ACLU filed friend-of-the-court briefs in an appeal against Judge Raymond A. Jackson of Federal District Court ruling.

Do you think they have a case?

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