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Facebook Likes are Protected Under the First Amendment

by on19 September 2013 1852 times
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A Federal Appeals court has ruled that the act of liking something on Facebook is protected under the First Amendment in the US Constitution. For anyone that might not be familiar with this amendment it is the one that guarantees free speech. The ruling stems from a law suit that was filed claiming wrongful termination. In this suit the plaintiff claimed that he was terminated because he like the page of a political rival of his boss (the city sheriff).

 

The ruling overturns one made by Judge Raymond A. Jackson (a federal district judge) who felt that simply clicking the like button did not constitute substantive speech. Because of this it did not merit protection under the First Amendment. The Forth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals felt differently and stated that liking something on the internet was the “equivalent of displaying a political sign in one’s front yard, which the Supreme Court has held is substantive speech”. In their view it is a statement of support saying the person likes something and should qualify for protection under the Constitution.

While the ruling is obviously important to the plaintiff in the case there are more far-reaching impacts to this ruling. If your likes and posts on Facebook are protected speech under the First Amendment then are they also protected by other articles in the Constitution? The long running argument over the reasonable expectation of privacy and the right of companies to scan, sort and read your data when stored in their server could come up again.

There has already been some movement in this fight, but the going is very slow. The biggest reason for the uphill battle is that the people that do not want you to have any privacy are throwing a ton of money at legislators to ensure they keep things as they are. Your personal (and private) information is worth a lot of money to companies like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Facebook etc. Having to give up access to that data would cost them considerably. So while they are likely to go to war to protect your rights to say what you want on their sites, they are not likely to lift a finger to protect your privacy in any measurable way. What many of these companies fail to understand is that more people will leave them over the fact that their information is so improperly used than will over the right to free speech or protection from being fired over something they said or liked in the internet…

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Facebook 4 Th Circuit by Joe Palazzolo

 

 

Last modified on 19 September 2013
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