Sunday, September 29, 2013

REVERSED! US Appeals Court Holds "Like" on Facebook is Protected Free Speech

Clicking "LIKE" on Facebook is expression protected by the First Amendment.

That's the ruling of the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Bland v. Roberts.  The  decision reversed an nearly inexplicable Virginia District Court decision that held clicking "LIKE" was not sufficient expression to qualify for First Amendment protection.

The case arose when Bland and several other employees of the Hampton (VA) Sheriff's Department clicked "LIKE" on the Facebook page of Sheriff's candidate Jim Adams.  The problem was that Adams was running against the current sheriff, B.J. Robert.  When Roberts discovered that his employees had clicked "LIKE" on Adams Facebook page, he fired them.

The former employees sued for violation of the right to free political expression,  The Federal District Court judge dismissed the case, holding that just clicking "LIKE" was insufficient to invoke the protection of the First Amendment.

In a post reporting the District Court decision, I commented that the decision was so far out of line with established law that it would be reversed on appeal.

In reaching it's decision, the Court stated that "Liking" campaign's Facebook page was the “Internet equivalent of displaying a political sign in one’s front yard, which the Supreme Court has held is substantive speech.”

photo credit: <a href="">Stewf</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

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