Facebook and the American Civil Liberties Union have gone to court to support the notion that "liking" something on the social network is protected free speech.
Their friend-of-the-court briefs involve the case of Hampton, Va., Sheriff's Deputy Daniel Ray Carter Jr. and five other people who worked for Sheriff B.J. Roberts -- but liked the Facebook page of another Sheriff's Office official, Jim Adams, who was challenging Roberts' bid for re-election.
The mouse click prompted Roberts to fire him, Carter alleges in the lawsuit. The other employees allege the same thing.
"You made your bed, now you're going to lie in it -- after the election you're gone," the lawsuit alleges Roberts told Carter after a meeting.
About a month after Roberts was re-elected in 2009, Carter and the five other employees who supported Adams or did not actively campaign for Roberts were fired, the lawsuit alleges.
Roberts' attorney disputes the version by Carter and the other employees, arguing the firings were not politically motivated.
"All employment decisions involving plaintiffs were constitutional, lawful, not the result of any improper purpose or motive, and not in retaliation for political expression," the sheriff's attorney wrote in filings in response to the lawsuit. The filing was viewed by The Washington Post.
Carter's lawsuit claims his First Amendment rights were violated. The case is before the 4th U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., after a lower federal court ruled a Facebook "like" was not protected speech.
U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson ruled that liking a Facebook page does not involve "actual statements."
"Merely 'liking' a Facebook page is insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection," Jackson wrote. "In cases where courts have found that constitutional protections extended to Facebook posts, actual statements existed within the record."
Facebook and the ACLU filed their briefs this week arguing Carter had a constitutionally protected right to express his opinion.
Liking a Facebook page is the "21st century equivalent of a front-yard campaign sign," Facebook said in its filings.
The ACLU said: "The ease of these actions does not negate their expressive nature. Indeed, under the district court's reasoning, affixing a bumper sticker to your car, pinning a campaign pin to your shirt, or placing a sign on your lawn would be devoid of meaning absent further information, and therefore not entitled to constitutional protection because of the minimal effort these actions require. All of these acts are, of course, constitutionally protected."
Facebook says its website users register more than 3 billion likes and comments every day.
Most Popular Stories
- Aetna Leaving California's Individual Health Insurance Market
- Honda Says Sorry About the Lack of Electric Fits
- OSH Selling Most of Its Stores to Lowe's
- Comcast Takes a Stake in a YouTube Content Provider
- Calories Count: Starbucks to Post the Numbers on Menu Boards
- Katy Perry: Learned About Divorce Via Text Message
- Is Stock Balloon Really a Pinata?
- Boeing to Build Stretch-Dreamliners
- Jimmy Hoffa Buried Alive, Reputed Underboss Says
- Kanye West's 'Yeezus': Angry Self-love