“Going to a candidate’s Facebook page and liking it in my view is a political statement. It’s not a very deep one, but you’re making a statement when you like a person’s Facebook page,” Messner said.
The “like” button on Facebook seems like a relatively clear way to express your support for something, but a federal judge says that doesn’t mean clicking it is constitutionally protected speech.
Exactly what a “like” means – if anything – played a part in a case in Virginia involving six people who say Hampton Sheriff B.J. Roberts fired them for supporting an opponent in his 2009 re-election bid, which he won. The workers sued, saying their First Amendment rights were violated.
Roberts said some of the workers were let go because he wanted to replace them with sworn deputies while others were fired because of poor performance or his belief that their actions “hindered the harmony and efficiency of the office.”
One of those workers, Daniel Ray Carter, had “liked” the Facebook page of Roberts’ opponent, Jim Adams.
While public employees are allowed to speak as citizens on matters of public concern, U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson ruled that clicking the “like” button does not amount to expressive speech. In other words, it’s not the same as actually writing out a message and posting it on the site.