Friday, September 14, 2012

More On: "LIKE" Button & Free Speech

The little "LIKE" button on Facebook is being DISLIKED by some rabbit-eared government officials.   More government employees are being fired and suspended for "Liking" the wrong things on Facebook.

The latest episode that appears to be headed to court is the suspension of three Mississippi safety workers for clicking "LIKE" on a Facebook posting of a firefighter. 

The now former-firefighter wrote a Facebook post highly critical of the mother of a young child involved in an accident.   After the firefighter resigned under pressure, the Columbus, MS City Council suspended three safety workers who "Liked" the post.  

This follows on the heels of a Virginia case now pending in the United States 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.  That case, detailed in a prior post on Law for Writers,  involved sheriff's deputies fired for clicking "Like" on the Facebook page of the sheriff's opponent in the upcoming election.  The District Court held that clicking the "LIKE" button wasn't sufficient expression to invoke the protection of the First Amendment.

Facebook, which receives more than three billion posts and  "Likes" a day, has filed an amicus brief in support of the fired employees, as has the ACLU. Personal note: the Virginia District Court reflected a remarkable lack of respect for the First Amendment and the expanse of our rights of free expression.  I expect the 4th Circuit will unanimously reverse the district court's decision.

The First Amendment is not limited to speech, but covers virtually all expression - including nude dancing, at least in Iowa. (Click here for story, but alas, no photos). In the leading case of Texas v. Johnson, (click here) the United States Supreme Court struck down the Texas statute criminalizing flag burning, Justice Brennan writing for the majority, stated that First Amendment protection "does not end at the spoken or written word.”

Michael Doyle with McClatchey Newspapers has put together an excellent piece discussing the troubling confluence of the First Amendment, Social Media and Technology.  It's well worth reading.  Click Here for his article: "In Facebook court cases, high tech and free speech collide."

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