Facebook ‘Likes’ Now Covered by First Amendment

Experts say people should still be careful about what they like

The First Amendment now covers Facebook Likes, according to the ruling on a federal appeal last week. Legal experts have noted that people ought still think twice before giving certain pages ‘likes’, despite the court’s ruling.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the former deputy sheriff in Hampton, Virginia, who stated he was fired for ‘liking’ a page of a man who was looking to unseat his boss. “On the most basic level, clicking on the ‘like’ button literally causes to be published the statement that the User ‘likes’ something, which is itself a substantive statement,” Chief Judge William B. Traxler Jr. wrote for the court, explaining the unanimous ruling.

While the ruling will not protect social networkers who press ‘like’ without cause, the United States constitutional right to freedom of speech does protect one from unwarranted backlash in any capacity based simply upon voiced opinion, according to John A.E. Pottow.

Pottow is a professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor. As long as it does not relate to religion or race, there is a rather clear line of allowance for one to say as they wish, as protected under The Civil Rights Act of 1964, “an employer can fire someone for saying something the employer doesn’t like,” he says.

There are some pages that receive rather surprising support and following on Facebook, Pages like Adolf Hitler’s political beliefs are liked by over 15,000 users. Many of the followers are not shy about the stance. There are nearly 2,000 who ‘like’ Aryanism. Of course there are also pages that are taken ironically, and other times ‘likes’ can be done mistakenly, or by a nefarious friend. That is why basing judgement on ‘likes’ alone can become difficult.

Facebook declined to comment on the individual Facebook ‘likes’ that cover items like the KKK, AR-10 machine guns, or hate speech in any form. “We do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, , gender, gender orientation, disability or medical condition.” Facebook previously deleted “Resurrect Timothy McVeigh,” a page dedicated to the man who carried out the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

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