The issue of free speech is always a hotly debated one and it’s becoming even more so in the digital age. Part of that debate is whether or not Facebook “Likes” are protected under the First Amendment as free speech, which is exactly what lawyers for Facebook and the American Civil Liberties Union are trying to determine.
The case surrounds six Hampton Sheriff’s Office employees who were fired after they supported their sheriff’s re-election opponent. According to the Associated Press, “One of those workers, Daniel Ray Carter, had “liked” the Facebook page of Roberts’ opponent.”
“If Carter had stood on a street corner and announced, `I like Jim Adams for Hampton sheriff,’ there would be no dispute that his statement was constitutionally protected speech,” Facebook stated in a friend of the court brief filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “Carter made that very statement; the fact that he did it online, with a click of a computer’s mouse, does not deprive Carter’s speech of constitutional protection.”
According to the Associated Press, “U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson ruled against the workers in April, saying merely `liking’ a Facebook page was insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection.
‘In cases where courts have found that constitutional speech protections extended to Facebook posts, actual statements existed within the record,’ Raymond wrote.”
What do you think of all this? Was the Hampton Sheriff right to fire an employee for “Liking” his opponent on Facebook or should that be protected by the First Amendment? Tell us in the comments!