A Facebook ‘Like’ is not protected speech
What you do online seems to have more affect on your offline life more than ever, particularly in the employment world. Whether it is an employer checking out your Facebook page as a prerequisite of hiring or you getting fired for posting something your employer didn’t like, the Facebook public needs to be aware of these very dangerous pitfalls.
In fact, Grover reports on a recent decision by a Virginia district court judge:
According to the decision, a Facebook “like” is not constitutionally protected free speech. The case looked at whether Sheriff B. J. Roberts of Hampton was entitled to fire six employees, because their actions on the social media site allegedly “hindered the harmony and efficiency of the office.” The terminated employees had all clicked the “like” button on the page of the sheriff’s political opponent, Jim Adams, in a 2009 re-election bid which Roberts won, the New York Times reports.
The terminated employees subsequently sued after they were fired, claiming that their First Amendment rights were violated. But Judge Raymond A. Jackson of the Federal District Court determined that simply clicking Facebook’s thumbs up button did not constitute expressive speech. The judge clarified the point by indicating that if the employees had written out a message and posted it on the site, it would then be covered under their First Amendment rights.
Grover reminds us, ”The laws regarding the limits of free speech in the new world of social media are just starting to develop. Until clearer standards evolve, both employers and employees need to be careful about what they say or do on social media outlets.”