Facebook And ACLU Argue That 'Liking' Something Is Protected By The First Amendment

from the like dept

Back in April, we wrote about a horrible ruling that said that Facebook likes were not protected by the First Amendment. The ruling didn’t make any sense at all, and we quoted two legal experts, Venkat Balasubramani and Eric Goldman, explaining why. The appeal in that case is moving forward and now both Facebook and the ACLU have weighed in to support the idea that a “like” is protected speech. Both filings are embedded below. Facebook makes the point quite clearly:

Liking a Facebook Page (or other website) is core speech: it is a statement that will be viewed by a small group of Facebook Friends or by a vast community of online users.

Facebook goes into the specifics of the case, which involved a deputy sheriff who was fired for “liking” his boss’s campaign challenger in an upcoming election. Liking a candidate is no different than saying that you like that candidate, which is undoubtedly protected speech:

If Carter had stood on a street corner and announced, “I like Jim Adams for Hampton Sheriff,” there would be no dispute that his statement was constitutionally protected speech. Carter made that very statement; the fact that he did it online, with a click of a computer’s mouse, does not deprive Carter’s speech of constitutional protection.

The ACLU makes a similar argument:

“Liking” a political candidate on Facebook – just like holding a campaign sign – is constitutionally protected speech. It is verbal expression, as well as symbolic expression. Clicking the “Like” button announces to others that the user supports, approves, or enjoys the content being “Liked.” Merely because “Liking” requires only a click of a button does not mean that it does not warrant First Amendment protection. Nor does the fact that many people today choose to convey their personal and political views online, via Facebook and other social media tools, affect the inquiry.

This one seems like such a slam-dunk case that it’s amazing the original ruling went the way it did. One hopes that the appeals court (Fourth Circuit, if you were wondering) recognizes the clear and concise arguments presented here, and dumps the original ruling.

Filed Under: ,
Companies: aclu, facebook

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Facebook And ACLU Argue That 'Liking' Something Is Protected By The First Amendment”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I respect your idea of having a dissapprove button but I can cite one reason that they don’t that’s pretty substantial. It’s the simple fact that in FaceBook you have an environment that is supposed to be full of your friends and people you met in real life. You can easily dislike something someone says on Facebook, but it’s easier not to push the like button and use commentary for disapproval. So I honestly truly think the whole premise of the like button is meant as an “oh that’s a good thought” or “congratulations”, which encourages people and in general builds them up.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...