RICHMOND, Virginia (AP)
A U.S. federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that clicking “Like” on Facebook is constitutionally protected free speech.
Exactly what a “like” means – if anything – played a part in a Virginia case involving six people who say a law enforcement official, Sheriff B.J. Roberts, fired them for supporting an opponent in his 2009 re-election bid, which he won. The workers sued, saying their rights to free speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution were violated.
Roberts said some of the workers were let go because he wanted to replace them with sworn deputies while others were fired because of poor performance or his belief that their actions “hindered the harmony and efficiency of the office.” One of those workers, Daniel Ray Carter, had “liked” the Facebook page of Roberts’ opponent, Jim Adams.
U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson had ruled in April 2012 that while public employees are allowed to speak as citizens on matters of public concern, clicking the “like” button does not amount to expressive speech. In other words, it’s not the same as actually writing out a message and posting it on the site.
The three-judge appeals court panel disagreed, ruling that “liking a political candidate’s campaign page communicates the user’s approval of the candidate and supports the campaign by associating the user with it. The case was sent back to the lower court.
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