Your Facebook Likes Aren't Free Speech, For Now

Senior Contributor
04.30.12 2 Comments

A couple of police officers working under sheriff B.J. Roberts were not fans of their boss, to the point where they liked his opponents’ Facebook page.

Roberts won and, unsurprisingly, fired everybody who liked his opponent. Equally unsurprisingly, his former employees sued him. And even more unsurprisingly, a judge who doesn’t understand the technology ruled that Facebook “Likes” aren’t free speech.

…with respect to this activity, the court says that plaintiffs did not point to any specific statements they made on Adams’ Facebook page. One plaintiff claimed he posted a comment to Adams’ page, but he later took it down, and the comment wasn’t presented to the court. Plaintiffs “liked” Adams’ Facebook page, and there was no dispute that Roberts was aware of this, but the court says this is insufficient.

This isn’t going to stand for a long: Facebook “likes” may be stupid and minor, but once a judge who actually understands the concept gets their hands on this case, it’ll be restored and protected speech.

Unfortunately, for now, this is a setback to people dealing with their employers hitting their Facebook page and digging for dirt, like, for example, violating any non-disclosure agreements that may have language about “not profaning the company” or similar. Fortunately, that may be banned soon anyway: a bill blocking employers from logging into your Facebook for any reason has been introduced in Congress and the Senate version is on the way.

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