A case has made its way up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit after a Virginia man claims he was fired for "liking" a Facebook page that supported a candidate who challenged his boss, The Washington Post reported.
Daniel Ray Carter Jr. said his boss, Hampton Sheriff B.J. Roberts, fired him from his job as a deputy. The case has now put him at the center of an emerging First Amendment debate in a murky territory: Is liking something on Facebook protected free speech?
After a lower court ruled that liking a page does not warrant protection because it does not involve actual statements, Facebook Inc. and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed briefs this week, supporting what they say is Carter's constitutional right to express his opinion. If the lower court's ruling is upheld, the ACLU and others worry that other Web-based actions, such as re-tweeting, won't be protected as free speech.
"We think it's important as new technologies emerge... that the First Amendment is interpreted to protect those new ways of communicating," Rebecca K. Glenberg, legal director of the ACLU of Virginia, told the Post. "Pressing a 'like' button is analogous to other forms of speech, such as putting a button on your shirt with a candidate's name on it."
In filings in response to the suit, Roberts' attorney disputes Carter's version of events and says the firing was not politically motivated.
"All employment decisions involving plaintiffs were constitutional, lawful, not the result of any improper purpose or motive, and not in retaliation for political expression," the sheriff's attorney wrote in the filings.