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Liking something on Facebook is the same as saying “I like this,” and therefore is protected by the first amendment according to a federal court ruling.
The case began when Deputy Sheriff Ray Carter of Hampton, Virginia was fired. Sheriff B.J. Roberts was running against Jim Adams for Hampton Sheriff and fired Carter after he found out Carter had liked the Facebook Page “Jim Adams for Hampton Sheriff.” Carter said it was the like on Facebook that resulted in his termination once Adams won the election. When Carter sued his former employer, he ended up losing the suit because a judge ruled that a like is not protected under free speech.
Facebook itself came to Carter’s defense. In its legal documentation, Facebook outlined how a like on Facebook is in fact protected by freedom of speech. They go on to say that while liking does not involve any actual statements, it is a type of speech. It is a statement that can be viewed by Facebook Friends or vast numbers of online users.
The American Civil Liberties Union also weighed in for the defense saying, “With “one click of a button,” an Internet user can upload or view a video, donate money to a campaign, forward an email, sign a petition, send a pre-written letter to a politician, or do a myriad of other indisputably expressive activities. The ease of these actions does not negate their expressive nature.”
Due to these testimonies, a federal judge overturned the original decision.
While this case ultimately ended in Carter’s favor, many other users can still face consequences based on what is found on their Facebook pages. One such example was a Taco Bell employee that posted a picture of himself licking taco shells that soon went viral. Needless to say, he too was fired.
While being fired based on personal views or opinions expressed on Facebook can be interpreted as a violation of the first amendment, posting incriminating evidence of bad decisions is certainly grounds for termination.
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