A legal battle is heating up over whether using the “Like” button on Facebook is protected under the First Amendment as an exercise of free speech. In April, U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson in the Eastern District of Virginia ruled against six former employees of a sheriff who had been fired for “liking” his opponent’s Facebook campaign page.
The judge maintained that because no words are used when clicking the “Like” button, it is not an expression of free speech. His ruling made a distinction between using the button and making a wall post or a comment, which use words and are therefore protected as free speech.
Since the April ruling, both Facebook and the American Civil Liberties Union have jumped into the legal battle. This week, Facebook filed its amicus curiae legal brief, in which the company says that Judge Jackson does not understand the world of social media.
In a statement to Tech Radar, Aden Fine of the ACLU says, “The Supreme Court has made clear that the First Amendment protects everyone’s right to express their thoughts and opinions in whatever form they choose to do so, whether it’s speaking on a street corner, holding up a sign or pressing a button on Facebook to say you ‘Like’ something.”
The brief filed by the ACLU reads (via the National Constitution Center), “Merely because ‘Liking’ requires only a click of a button does not mean that it does not warrant First Amendment protection. Nor does the fact that many people today choose to convey their personal and political views online, via Facebook and other social media tools.”