Content Marketing Blog

The case of the Facebook ‘like’ and freedom of speech

The influence of social media on everyday life is so prevalent and heavily ingrained that it is now the centre of a court case concerning the Facebook like function and the right to freedom of speech.

The court case in question involves an elected sheriff in Virginia, who had fired staff members who liked his rival on Facebook.

A district court judge in the US earlier ruled that hitting like for someone on Facebook was not protected by the First Amendment, so under this sheriff B.J. Hampton wasn't breaking the law when he fired six staff in his office who liked his opponent's page in an election in 2009.

Mr Hampton won against his opponent in the election, but still fired the staff for "unsatisfactory work" where they have challenged this decision on grounds of free speech.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has weighed in on the case appealing the decision made, with the ACLU stating their view that the like button on Facebook is a form of free speech in their friend-of-the-court brief filed on August 6.

"Whether someone presses a “Like” button to express those thoughts or presses the buttons on a keyboard to write out those words, the end result is the same: one is telling the world about one’s personal beliefs, interests, and opinions. That is exactly what the First Amendment protects, however that information is conveyed," states the brief from ACLU.

The ACLU says in a blog post from August 7 that the case is a vital reminder of how "the law needs to keep pace with technology" and that they are hopeful that the court will confirm that the First Amendment protects the rights of people to have freedom of speech on the internet.