As reported in The Verge online, hitting the ‘Like’ button on Facebook does not necessarily offer you freedom of speech privileges or protect you from losing your job.
Apparently, Daniel Ray Carter, a sheriff’s deputy in Virginia, “liked” the Facebook page of one of his boss’ competition, and the deputy was then fired. A judge presiding over the case ruled that something as paltry as hitting a ‘like’ button does not hold up as a concrete statement of free speech as if the deputy had actually written that he likes the candidate’s run for sheriff.
I have to say that, if we’re going to hold up people’s rights to free speech, we need to hold it up on all fronts. I’d say that, in today’s online realm, “liking’ someone on Facebook holds as much water as saying it or writing it–especially if they’re going to lose their job over it.
Facebook responded by supporting the fired deputy, stating that
“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,” says the company, which goes on to claim “likes” are essentially “the 21st-century equivalent of a front-yard campaign sign.” Facebook hammers the point home by reiterating that simply because Carter made such a statement using its service should not deprive him of constitutional protections.
Now, don’t misunderstand me, that deputy Carter should have kept his “finger off of the FB trigger” and kept his opinions of his boss to himself–until the other guy won, of course. You have to have SOME common sense when it comes to your career.