Court reverses decision: Facebook ‘like’ is protected by First Amendment

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The next time you have the urge to “like” something on Facebook, know that you do so with the full backing of the U.S. Constitution.

A federal appeals court ruled this week that “liking” something on Facebook is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment.

For those not familiar with Facebook, the like button is a feature where users show favor for content such as status updates, comments, photos and links shared by friends.

The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided in favor of a former deputy sheriff in Hampton, Va., who said he was fired for “liking” the Facebook page of a man running against his boss for city sheriff, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The court said “liking” the campaign page was the “Internet equivalent of displaying a political sign in one’s front yard, which the Supreme Court has held is substantive speech,” the Journal reported.

Wednesday’s ruling reverses an earlier decision by a federal district judge to throw out the lawsuit after saying a Facebook “like” was “insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection.”

Written posts on Facebook have been granted First Amendment protections in the past, but the judge put those cases in a separate category of speech, since they involved “actual statements.”

“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,” the Fourth Circuit said Wednesday.

Although, there are instances where a user will “like” a page simply to monitor the activity on the page.

Facebook had urged the Fourth Circuit to reverse the earlier court ruling, according to the Journal.

“We are pleased the court recognized that a Facebook ‘Like’ is protected by the First Amendment,” said Pankaj Venugopal, associate general counsel at Facebook.

Continue reading at the Wall Street Journal

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Tom Tillison

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