Facebook Says Likes Must Have Free-Speech ProtectionS

In a court room in Virginia, Facebook's lawyers are busy arguing that the social network's "Like" feature needs to be recognised with free-speech protection under the US Constitution.

The Big Blue is hoping it can reverse a lower court ruling, which arose from a lawsuit which suggested a Facebook “Like” isn’t First Amendment speech. Bloomberg explains the background to that case:

The case involves Danny Carter, a former Hampton jailer, who claims he was fired after he posted a picture of his boss’s opponent in the sheriff’s race on his Facebook page, along with a link to the contender’s website. The post, made almost four years ago because Carter clicked the “Like” button on the “Jim Adams for Hampton Sheriff” Facebook page, was the subject of arguments today over how to view one-click, online endorsements of a person, idea or product.

There are two opposing stances over how much protection a Facebook like deserves. Back in April 2012, District Judge Raymond Jackson ruled that “liking” something on Facebook didn’t amount to “a substantive statement” that warranted constitutional protection.

But in this new hearing, Circuit Judge Stephanie Thacker has noted that “Carter clicked the Like because he liked something... How is that any different than perhaps putting a sign in the yard saying ‘I Like Ike’?” If you were wondering, yard signs were ruled protected speech by the US Supreme Court in 1994.

Of course, the arguments far from over—and it's not clear that the judgement in the current case, Bland v. Roberts, will be the end of things. But in the meantime, it might just pay to be careful about what you choose to Like. [Bloomberg]