Is a Facebook “like” protected speech?

A ruling by a U.S. District Judge in Virginia brings expressions on social networks to the forefront of the legal debate. The court ruling determined that a Facebook “like” cannot be considered protected speech. The case was about workers in a Sheriff’s office who liked the Facebook page of their boss’ opponent during an election. The workers were later fired by the Sheriff. I was interviewed about this controversial ruling by Associated Press reporter Brock Vergakis

The following is an excerpt from the AP article as published in The New York Times on May 5:

The case enters a murky legal area: previous cases have dealt with postings on social networks such as Facebook, but there are no actual words in this situation.

Marcus Messner, a journalism and mass communications professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who specializes in social media, said the matter would probably have to be settled by a higher court.

“Going to a candidate’s Facebook page and liking it, in my view, is a political statement,” Mr. Messner said. “It’s not a very deep one, but you’re making a statement.”

Please also read the complete article “Clicking ‘Like’ on Facebook Is Not Protected Speech, Judge Rules” on the website of The New York Times.

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