Business, Economics and Jobs

Facebook "like" not protected by first amendment, judge rules


EU floats online “right to be forgotten." This photo taken Dec. 14, 2010 shows a map on a page from the Facebook social network site.The map displays friendships as lights on a deep blue background. The eastern half of the United States and Europe shine the brightest, while China, Russia and central Africa, where Facebook has little presence, are mainly dark.


Karen Bleier

People who obsessively "like" everything in their Facebook newsfeed might want to think twice: a judge has decided that Facebook "likes" are not protected by the first amendment. It is the first ruling that a judge has ever made on the "like" button and the first amendment, the Associated Press reported

This case began in Virginia, when Sheriff B. J. Roberts of Hampton fired six people for supporting his opponent in his 2009 re-election bid. One of the fired workers, Daniel Ray Carter, "liked" the Facebook page of Roberts's opponent, Jim Adams. The workers sued, saying their First Amendment rights were violated. But Judge Raymond A. Jackson of Federal District Court ruled that Carter's first amendment rights were not violated. Instead, Jackson decided that clicking the “like” button does not count as expressive speech, and therefore is not protected by the constitution. This means that clicking on the "like" button has less protections than just writing out a message and posting it on Facebook, the AP reported. 

More from GlobalPost: Promises, pitfalls await investors in Burma’s frontier

Technology groups and the American Civil Liberties Union disagree with the ruling. "It's a somewhat odd decision that a Facebook 'like' is not protected speech," Jeff Hermes, director of the Digital Media Law Project, Berkman Center for Internet & Society told MSNBC. "The judge was essentially devaluing the 'like' as speech because of how simple it is to do."

And the ACLU told the Los Angeles Times that "liking" something should be protected, because it still expresses an opinion or thought. "The mere fact that you're pressing a button to express that view or opinion instead of saying those words doesn't make a difference," an ACLU attorney told the LA Times.