Federal Appeals Court To Decide If Facebook “Likes” Are Protected Speech

facebook-like-thumb-iconFacebook attorneys told a federal appeals court Thursday that “likes” deserve free-speech protection, and anything less would “would result in chilling the very valued means for communication the Internet has made possible.”

As Bloomberg reports, the argument is part of a case in which an employee from the Hampton, Virginia sheriff’s department says he was fired after “liking” a Facebook Page that belonged to his bosses’ election opponent.

That employee, Danny Carter, was one of six sheriff’s employees fired after the election, Bloomberg says. The six sued their boss, claiming the firings were retaliation for supporting his opponent.

U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson in Norfolk, Virginia, on April 24, 2012, dismissed the lawsuit, rejecting the plaintiffs’ First Amendment claims.

He ruled that simply “liking” a Facebook page didn’t amount to “a substantive statement” that warrants constitutional protection.

In yesterday’s hearing, one of the three appellate judges asked how clicking the “Like” button on Facebook is different from placing a political sign in a yard — something that’s been protected as free speech since 1994.

No word on when the court will issue a ruling.

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Facebook | Facebook: Buttons & Plugins | Facebook: Legal

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Marketing Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/DanThies Dan Thies

    “U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson in Norfolk, Virginia, on April
    24, 2012, dismissed the lawsuit, rejecting the plaintiffs’ First
    Amendment claims.”

    U.S District Judge Raymond Jackson needs to be removed from the bench.

    How the hell is “I like your opponent” not substantive speech? Especially when you’re saying it to your (elected) boss?

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