Remember when “like” was just a verb? Those days seem increasingly distant — especially now that Facebook is in Federal appeals court, arguing that its ubiquitous blue thumbs-up symbol should be protected under the First Amendment.
You may remember the case into which the social network just waded. A sheriff in Virginia fired six of his employees, including deputy sheriff Daniel Ray Carter — who had clicked the Like button on the Facebook page of his bosses’ political opponent, Jim Adams.
If the Like button counts as free speech, then a public employee can’t be fired for clicking on it, at least not in the state of Virginia. But the judge in this case ruled that it didn’t.
“Simply liking a Facebook page … is not the kind of substantive statement that has previously warranted constitutional protection,” wrote Fourth Circuit Judge Raymond Jackson — to the chagrin of many a constitutional scholar.
Now the social network, which does not enter into political battles lightly, has weighed in with a brief on Carter’s behalf — and it isn’t mincing words. Here are some of the choicest quotes:
“When a Facebook user Likes a Page on Facebook, she engages in speech protected by the First Amendment. The court … betrays a misunderstanding of the communication at issue and disregards well-settled Supreme Court and Fourth Circuit precedent.
“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. Carter made that very statement; the fact that he did it online,with a click of a computer’s mouse, does not deprive Carter’s speech of constitutional protection.
“Carter need not have published a detailed analysis of the competing candidates’ platforms for his speechto warrant First Amendment protection. His endorsement of his preferred candidate is enough.”
Check out Facebook’s first amendment argument in full below, and let us know in the comments: does Judge Jackson have a legal leg to stand on here?