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Using Facebook “like” is Free Speech

09.20.13

A court ruled that “like” is “...is the Internet equivalent of displaying a political sign in one’s front yard” and that a former employee should not have lost his job merely because he “liked” a political opponent of his boss. On September 18, 2013 the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled using Facebook’s “like” was free speech under the First Amendment even though Sheriff in Hampton, Virginia “warned his employees not support” his opponent. In addition the Court ruled that federal (Hatch Act) and state laws were violated since:

Sheriff Roberts used his office and the resources that he controlled, including his employees’ manpower, to further his own re-election efforts. His senior staff often recruited Sheriff’s Office employees to assist in these efforts. For example, he used his employees to work at his annual barbeque/golf tournament political fundraiser, and his subordinates pressured employees to sell and buy tickets to his fundraising events.

When Sheriff Roberts won re-election in 2009 he did not re-appoint 12 employees because they failed to support his re-election. So the lawsuit was filed alleging:

Sheriff violated their First Amendment right to free association when he refused to reappoint them based on their lack of political allegiance to him in the 2009 election.

Ultimately the Court of Appeals sustained Sheriff’s immunity for monetary damages, but allows certain claims for reinstatement to go back to the trial court.
 

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