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:
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
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.