Facebook ‘Likes’ are protected by the First Amendment

facebook like protected by the first amendment

“Likes” on Facebook are now protected by the First Amendment, thanks to a ruling by the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court ruled on the side of Bobby Bland, a former deputy sheriff from Hampton, Va., who says he and other employees were fired for ‘liking’ the Facebook page of his boss’s opponent. Their boss, sheriff B.J. Roberts, won his race and promptly fired the dissenting employees. He said the firings were the result of budget cuts and the workers’ disruption of office dynamics. Suspecting that the dismissal had less to do with the budget and more to do with disliking the “likes,” Bland and his fellow Facebook mutineers took the case to court.

In 2012, The U.S. District Court of Eastern Virginia didn’t buy their argument that the termination violated their First Amendment rights, and dismissed the case. Judge Raymond Jackson noted that Facebook posts were protected, but didn’t think “likes” made the cut. “Simply liking a Facebook page is insufficient. It is not the kind of substantive statement that has previously warranted constitutional protection,” he wrote in his opinion. 

But a different judge saw the situation from another perspective. Chief Judge William B. Traxler Jr. saw no difference between a “like” and actually writing that you like something. “”On the most basic level, clicking on the ‘Like’ button literally causes to be published the statement that the user ‘likes’ something, which is itself a substantive statement,” he wrote

The ruling reinforced the argument of one of the plaintiffs, Daniel R. Carter Jr., who explicitly defended himself by saying a “like” fell under protected speech. 

This is an important decision for the First Amendment because it extends free speech protections to a simple click of the mouse. It’s a common sense ruling, since publicly “liking” something on Facebook is a clear endorsement, even if it is one that requires zero creative thinking. The line of thinking the judge used to arrive at this decision would protect all sorts of actions on social media, such as “favoriting” a tweet or pressing the heart button under an Instagram photo. 

Of course, you may be wondering why this case was brought to court at all — why shouldn’t a sheriff be able to fire people who work for him who expressed support for another candidate? While employees in the private sector can be fired for comments deemed inappropriate, public servants often have more robust employment protections in place that safeguard their jobs if they express their political views. That may be the case here. 

Computing

We want every laptop to be as thin as an iPhone. But is it practical?

The Acer Swift 7 is the thinnest notebook you can buy, and it feels like the notebook of the future. But it makes too many compromises along the way, and some weird design choices hold it back.
Deals

Today’s best Amazon deals: Facebook, Nikon, and NVidia

Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be over, but for retail giants like Amazon, the savings are only getting started. We've scoured the depths of Amazon to find you the very best deals going on right now.
Movies & TV

Netflix is testing an instant scene-replay feature, but would you use it?

Ever felt like Netflix was missing a scene-replay button? The company is currently trialing a feature that lets you skip back to the start of the scene you just watched, though early tests appear to be annoying some viewers.
Mobile

Santa Claus is coming to town. Get ready with these Christmas apps

Like it or not, Christmas comes but once a year. Thankfully, we've got a list of the best Christmas apps to help get you into the holiday spirit, just in case you want to call Santa or become a Christmas elf.
Social Media

This event topped Facebook’s biggest moments of the year — again

As the year comes to a close, Facebook is looking back on what users discussed most over the last year. For two years in a row, International Women's Day topped the list. So what else is on the list?
Social Media

This band owns Twitter, according to list of top accounts and tweets for 2018

What was the biggest buzz on Twitter in 2018? Twitter's 2018 Year in Review highlights the biggest tweets, accounts, and hashtags. The most-tweeted celebrities, movies, TV shows, athletes, politicians and more in Twitter's 2018 trends.
Social Media

What do yodeling and Kylie Jenner have in common? YouTube’s top 2018 videos

In a true nod to the variety found on YouTube, the platform's top 10 list of videos from 2018 range from celebrities to sports, from perfectly tossing a picture frame on the wall to a kid yodeling in aisle 12 at Walmart.
Home Theater

It took Tom Cruise to raise awareness of this troublesome TV setting

Tom Cruise, in an unexpected PSA tweet, asks you to turn off motion interpolation on your TV, but stops short of how to do it. Here's more on the topic, along with links to a guide on how to rid your TV of the dreaded "soap opera effect."
Computing

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than ever, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.
Business

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.
Social Media

Snapchat facial recognition could soon power a new portrait mode, code suggests

Digging into Snapchat's code suggests a handful of upcoming camera features, including a portrait mode. The feature appears to use facial recognition A.I. to blur the background. The code also suggests an updated camera interface.
Computing

Google+ continues to sink with a second massive data breach. Abandon ship now

Google+ was scheduled to shut its doors in August 2019, but the second security breach in only a few months has caused the company to move its plan forward a few months. It might be a good idea to delete your account sooner than later.
Social Media

Walkie-talkie voice messaging finally comes to Instagram

In its latest grab from messaging apps, Instagram now lets you send walkie-talkie style voice messages. Apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and iMessage have offered the feature for some time.
Social Media

‘YouTube Rewind 2018’ is about to become its most disliked video ever

YouTube is about to achieve a record it really doesn't want — that of "most-disliked video." Yes, its annual recap of featuring popular YouTubers has gone down really badly this year.