Using Facebook “like” is Free Speech

20 September 2013 Internet, IT & e-Discovery Blog Blog
Authors: Peter Vogel

A court ruled that “like” 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.

This blog is made available by Foley & Lardner LLP (“Foley” or “the Firm”) for informational purposes only. It is not meant to convey the Firm’s legal position on behalf of any client, nor is it intended to convey specific legal advice. Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Foley & Lardner LLP, its partners, or its clients. Accordingly, do not act upon this information without seeking counsel from a licensed attorney. This blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Communicating with Foley through this website by email, blog post, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship for any legal matter. Therefore, any communication or material you transmit to Foley through this blog, whether by email, blog post or any other manner, will not be treated as confidential or proprietary. The information on this blog is published “AS IS” and is not guaranteed to be complete, accurate, and or up-to-date. Foley makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the operation or content of the site. Foley expressly disclaims all other guarantees, warranties, conditions and representations of any kind, either express or implied, whether arising under any statute, law, commercial use or otherwise, including implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Foley or any of its partners, officers, employees, agents or affiliates be liable, directly or indirectly, under any theory of law (contract, tort, negligence or otherwise), to you or anyone else, for any claims, losses or damages, direct, indirect special, incidental, punitive or consequential, resulting from or occasioned by the creation, use of or reliance on this site (including information and other content) or any third party websites or the information, resources or material accessed through any such websites. In some jurisdictions, the contents of this blog may be considered Attorney Advertising. If applicable, please note that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Photographs are for dramatization purposes only and may include models. Likenesses do not necessarily imply current client, partnership or employee status.


Related Services