WASHINGTON — Facebook users who use and click ‘like’ features on pages of political candidates are exercising legally protected speech, said a U.S. appeals court.
Reuters reported that the case involved a former deputy sheriff who was fired for ‘liking’ his boss’ opponent’s Facebook page.
The Hampton, Virginia city sheriff summarily fired five other employees in the sheriff’s office for supporting his opponent. Hampton Sheriff B.J. Roberts fired them for supporting opponent Jim Adams in a 2009 election. The appeals court is based in Richmond, Virginia and has three members on the judiciary.
Chief Judge William Traxler said:
“Liking a political candidate’s campaign page communicates the user’s approval of the candidate and supports the campaign by associating the user with it…It is the Internet equivalent of displaying a political sign in one’s front yard, which the Supreme Court has held is substantive speech.”
This recent decision reverses a U.S. District Judge’s claim that ‘liking’ a Facebook page is “insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection.”