No Legal Defense for Likes that Equal Political Endorsements on Facebook
According to one judge in Virginia and Sheriff R.J. Roberts in Hampton, Virginia, Facebook “Likes” are not protected speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Judge Raymond A. Jackson, reportedly ruled that although Facebook messages are protected under the First Amendment, clicking the “Like” button is different and is not protected by the First Amendment.
The Sheriff fired at least one of his underlings allegedly for the act of clicking “Like” on Facebook. The “Like” was directed towards the Sheriff's opponent in his bid for re-election. One of the six people fired, Daniel Ray Carter, reportedly admitted that he liked the Facebook page of Robert's opponent. Sheriff Roberts says they were fired for poor performance or because supporting his opponent “hindered the harmony and efficiency of the office.”
A lawyer who is defending the case says they will appeal the decision. Much like the Twitter pages of some reporters and journalists that say “RT's do not equal endorsements,” Facebook pages of many people may soon say “Likes Don't Equal Endorsements.” If not, then the perception that the act of “Liking' a page to get access to the page may cause more people to get fired in the future.
An alternative solution would be for everyone to just “Unlike” every page on Facebook in order to keep their job. Time for me to get started on that one.