Online • Case centers on Virginia county employees fired for `liking' sheriff's opponent.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Norfolk, Va. • Attorneys for Facebook and the American Civil Liberties Union want a federal appeals court to rule that clicking "Like" on the social networking site is constitutionally-protected free speech.
The case revolves around six employees who were fired by Hampton Sheriff B.J. Roberts after they supported his re-election opponent in 2009. One of those workers, Daniel Ray Carter, had "liked" the Facebook page of Roberts' opponent.
Facebook said clicking 'Like' was the 21st century-equivalent of a campaign yard sign.
"If Carter had stood on a street corner and announced, 'I like Jim Adams for Hampton sheriff,' there would be no dispute that his statement was constitutionally protected speech," the company wrote in a friend of the court brief filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. "Carter made that very statement; the fact that he did it online, with a click of a computer's mouse, does not deprive Carter's speech of constitutional protection."
U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson ruled against the workers in April, saying merely 'liking' a Facebook page was insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection.
"In cases where courts have found that constitutional speech protections extended to Facebook posts, actual statements existed within the record," Raymond wrote.
Facebook and the ACLU want the appeals court to vacate the judge's decision.