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FACEBOOK “LIKE” BUTTON NOT PROTECTED SPEECH?

A federal judge in Virginia recently ruled that hitting the Facebook “like” button does not amount to protected free speech. Plaintiffs were employees of a sheriff running for re-election. After winning, the sheriff chose to fire some employees who had “liked” his opponent’s Facebook page during the campaign. The judge opined that there was no protected free speech because there were no actual “statements”, just the clicking of the “like” button.

I am surprised by the ruling, since it is commonly accepted that pressing “Like” on Facebook is the cyberequivalent of making a gesture at someone. Clapping or giving someone the finger has been considered forms of protected expression. I agreed with someone’s comment that were Eisenhower running for president in 2013, it is hard to imagine his slogan of “I Like Ike” would not be used online and offline.

I think the real lesson is that everyone should be very cautious about what they post on social media sites because everything is publicly viewable.

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