Facebook 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.