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Federal court rules Facebook ‘Likes’ are protected under the First Amendment

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, September 18, 2013 20:33 EDT
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The Facebook logo is seen on a tablet screen on December 4, 2012 in Paris. (AFP)
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Hitting the “Like” button on Facebook is an element of free speech protected by the U.S. constitution, a federal court ruled Wednesday, in a case closely watched by employment lawyers.

The U.S. Court of Appeals based in Richmond, Virginia, made the judgment in the case of a Virginia sheriff’s department worker who claimed he was fired for exercising his free speech rights — in this case “liking” a political opponent of his boss.

“His conduct qualifies as speech,” the court said in a 81-page decision that sent the case back to a lower court for review of those issues.

“In sum, 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.

“In this way, it is the Internet equivalent of displaying a political sign in one’s front yard, which the Supreme Court has held is substantive speech.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and Facebook both filed legal briefs supporting the view that the “Like” button is protected speech.

The ACLU brief said “liking” something on Facebook “expresses a clear message — one recognized by millions of Facebook users and non-Facebook users — and is both pure speech and symbolic expression that warrants constitutional protection.”

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
 
 
 
 
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