Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Is A Digital Click The Same As Speech?

Think twice – or thrice - before clicking that little blue thumb in the future.  A Virginia judge ruled recently that the Facebook “Like” button does not constitute free speech, and is not protected by the Constitution.
So what’s this mean?
Well, to Daniel Ray Carter, an ex-employee of the Hampton, VA sheriff’s department, it means no more job.  Here’s the deal: Carter was fired after he “liked” his boss’ political opponent on Facebook.  He filed a lawsuit claiming that his First Amendment right to freedom of speech was violated by his firing. 
The judge ruled, however, that “Simply liking a Facebook page is insufficient. It is not the kind of substantive statement that has previously warranted constitutional protection. The Court will not attempt to infer the actual content of Carter's posts from one click of a button on Adams' Facebook page. For the Court to assume that the Plaintiffs made some specific statement without evidence of such statements is improper. Facebook posts can be a matter of public concern; however the Court does not believe Plaintiffs Carter and McCoy have alleged sufficient speech to garner First Amendment protection.”
An appeal is expected.  This sticky subject of the digital thumbs up just may be debatable enough for the Supreme Court. 
What do you think? Would you fire someone for “Liking” a competitor?  Should this be free speech?

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