Facebook Appeals Decision Saying Likes Aren’t Protected By Free Speech

Facebook is appealing a ruling made last year over a dispute regarding a Facebook like as free and protected speech. After a Virginia sheriff’s office employee liked the Facebook page of his boss’ political opponent, resulting in a post on the News Feed, the man lost his job. Daniel Ray Carter, along with five other people fired from the Hampton, Va., sheriff’s department, then filed a lawsuit claiming that likes on Facebook are free speech. A judge dismissed Carter’s claims in April 2012, but Facebook is keeping the fight alive.

Carter was in hot water for liking the Facebook page of Jim Adams, who was running against then-incumbent Sheriff B.J. Roberts in an election. Carter, along with Facebook, felt that this post should have been protected by freedom of speech.

U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson disagreed in a ruling last year:

The court will not attempt to infer the actual content of Carter’s posts from one click of a button on Adams’ Facebook page. For the court to assume that the plaintiffs made some specific statement without evidence of such statements is improper.

But Facebook Thursday made its case to an appeals court. Facebook attorney Aaron Panner feels that liking a page should be considered freedom of speech. The company feels that liking a page isn’t much different from putting up a sign in your lawn that you like a political candidate:

Any suggestion that such communication has less than full constitutional protection would result in chilling the very valued means for communication the Internet has made possible.

Readers: What do you think: Is a Facebook like considered free speech?

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