The debate that how online free speech is different from real-world right to free speech has been going on for a while. And now a U.S. court has made things a little clear by ruling that Facebook ‘Likes’ are also protected under the First Amendment.
Liking a post on Facebook is essentially an expression of an opinion. Since this is indeed an instance of free speech, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has now ruled that such ‘Likes’ are protected under First Amendment and must not have adverse consequences for a user.
The case was actually about a person who liked the Facebook page of a campaign which rooted for his boss’ opponent. As a result of liking the said page, he was fired. According to Judge Taxler who overlooked the case, “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.”
It must be noted here that in the past, one of the courts stated that liking a Facebook page is inadequate to qualify as free speech. In view of this, the fresh verdict by Judge Taxler sets a new precedent, one which has been hailed by digital activists. The verdict is a step forward towards acknowledging the ideal state, where most opinions cited online are categorized as free speech and protected as such.
Mr. Carter, who filed the case and is the one who was fired by his boss over liking a Facebook page, stands to regain his former position as a result of the court’s decision.