The First Amendment of the US Constitution protects Facebook Likes as free speech. That’s according to a US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
The underlying facts of the case involved sheriff’s deputies who were fired for endorsing (Liking) the sheriff’s political opponent on Facebook. The existing sheriff discovered this and canned the deputies. They sued to get their jobs back and for damages.
The lower federal court ruled in favor of the defendant sheriff on “summary judgment” and against the plaintiffs. The court said that a Facebook “Like” was “insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection” according to the Journal article.
As a practical matter the appeals court ruling reinstates the lawsuit for wrongful termination (for some but not all the plaintiffs). The original suit was filed in federal district court in 2011.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal asserted that Liking a political campaign on Facebook was essentially the same as “displaying a political sign in one’s front yard.”
Facebook had encouraged the appeals court to overrule the lower-court opinion and grant First Amendment protection to Likes.