60-Second Tech

Facebook Argues "Like" Is Free Speech

After people were fired for a Facebook "like," a court ruled that a "like" is not protected free speech. Facebook and the ACLU disagree. Larry Greenemeier reports

Facebook users might want to be more careful about who and what they designate as a "Like" on the social networking site. As one deputy sheriff in Virginia found out, putting all your “Like” behind the wrong person could cost you your job.

During a 2009 election, the deputy and some co-workers "Liked" the guy running against their boss for sheriff of Hampton, Va. Well, the incumbent won and promptly canned all of those who committing this egregious Facebook faux pas.

The deputy sued to get his job back, but the courts ruled that clicking on the "Like" button is not protected free speech. Now Facebook and the ACLU are stepping in to argue that "Liking" a political candidate is a verbal and a symbolic expression of support worthy of constitutional protection.

Obviously, neither James Madison nor Alexander Hamilton could be reached for comment. They might have difficulty recognizing the country they helped forge more than 200 years ago—still they probably would agree this case presents an interesting precedent regarding how the U.S. legal system recognizes social networking in the future.

—Larry Greenemeier

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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