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Legal Protection for Facebook Likes

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Shutterstock/Sarawut Aiemsinsuk

Shutterstock/Sarawut Aiemsinsuk

With just about everyone seeming to be on Facebook these days, it’s hard not to see what your friends have “liked.” Reading most articles online give you the opportunity to give a thumbs up. Clicking the “like” button may seem like a relatively personal action at the time, but in reality we should know that our Facebook friends and others can see this information as well. Sometimes the consequences of that “like” go far beyond what we could imagine.

Daniel Ray Carter Jr. of Virginia learned the hard way. He “liked” the page for a candidate running against his boss. His problems started in the summer of 2009, according to a Washington Post article.

“[L]ongtime Hampton Sheriff B.J. Roberts was running for reelection, according to the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Newport News in March 2011. Roberts learned that some of his employees, including Carter, were actively supporting another high-ranking Sheriff’s Office official, Jim Adams, in the election.

Carter liked Adams’s campaign page on Facebook, according to court records. When Roberts learned of the campaigning on the site, he became “incensed” and called a meeting of employees, according to the lawsuit. He allegedly told them that he would be sheriff for “as long as I want it.”

After the meeting, the lawsuit says, Roberts approached Carter and told him: “You made your bed, now you’re going to lie in it — after the election you’re gone.”

Sheriff Roberts won the election and Carter was fired. Carter sued claiming that his First Amendment rights were violated and his case reached the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. Facebook and the ACLU filed briefs supporting him.

A follow-up article this past September showed the Court ruling that indeed “liking” something on Facebook is a form of protected speech. Virginia’s ACLU legal director said, “The court properly recognized that in an era when so much of our communication takes place through social media liking a political Facebook page is an important means of political expression that deserves First Amendment expression.”

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November 26th, 2013 at 8:00 am

Posted in Legal News

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