“Like” is free speech

A local case:

facebookHAMPTON — A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that clicking “like” on Facebook is protected free speech, an issue raised by six former Hampton sheriff’s deputies and employees.

This has been an interesting case to watch. While much of the focus has been on the Facebook “like” button, I wondered how the court would rule on the issue of the former deputies and employees basically being political appointments. (There is another case that was filed this week against the Virginia Beach sheriff by a former employee who was not reappointed, but the plaintiff in that case alleges bias.) Interestingly enough, at least the way I read the ruling (below, pg 24), it seems Sheriff B.J. Roberts couldn’t terminate the employees simply because they didn’t support him. I have previously understood – perhaps wrongly – that constitutional employees were “at will” employees and their re-appointment was up to the constitutional officer. Three of the plaintiffs in the case were found to have “created a genuine factual dispute regarding whether lack of political allegiance was a substantial basis for their non-reappointment.” The summary judgment dismissing the claim for the three who did not meet this political allegiance test was upheld.

I have to say that this part of the decision I found quite amusing:

In sum, liking a political candidate’s campaign page communicates the user’s approval of the candidate and supports the campaign by associating the user with it. In this way, it is the Internet equivalent of displaying a political sign in one’s front yard

It’s amusing to me because I sometimes “like” a page for a completely different reason: to be able to read the posts 🙂 Guess I’m going to have to go back and “unlike” some pages.