Is the "Like" Button Protected Free Speech?

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Political free speech is protected by the U.S. Constitution — but what about liking someone, some cause, or some candidate on Facebook?

One morning, Deputy Sheriff Ray Carter clicked on a thumbs-up icon at his computer in Hampton Virginia. The problem was that the page was for a candidate challenging his boss, the sheriff. The sheriff didn't like that at all, and after he won re-election, Carter was fired as deputy.

Facebook and the American Civil Liberties Union are now fighting to make the "Like" button a form of protected speech. Marcus Messner is a journalism professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who specializes in social media.


Marcus Messner

Comments [1]

C.G. from Manhattan

I'm not a First Amendment specialist, but I think your guest is confused. Comparisons to the commercial marketplace or the Obama campaign are misplaced because the government is not the employer in those cases. The First Amendment limit government actions, not the actions of private employers Despite having the goal of reelecting the president, the Obama campaign is NOT a government entity. If the appeals court recognizes Facebook likes as speech (which seems as appropriate as recognizing speech when someone posts "Vote for X" signs on his or her own front lawn) and such speech does not interfere with the deputy's job, then the deputy shouldn't be fired for it.

Is it a good idea to discuss legals cases when you don't have a knowledgeable guest to explain the issues?

Aug. 09 2012 03:48 PM

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