By Christopher B. Daly
History keeps happening. Now, a U.S. appeals court has ruled that the activity of hitting “Like” on a Facebook is a form of expression that deserves free-speech protections under the First Amendment.
An earlier ruling in a lower federal court went the other way. But on Wednesday (9/18), the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond reversed and said an employee who “liked” a political candidate was engaging in political speech and therefore cannot be punished by his employer.
From the AP story in today’s Boston Globe:
Facebook and the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed friend of court briefs in the case, applauded Wednesday’s ruling.
‘‘The Constitution doesn’t distinguish between ‘liking’ a candidate on Facebook and supporting him in a town meeting or public rally,’’ said Ben Wizner of the ACLU .
This ruling seems not only common-sensical, but it also seems to right a terrible wrong: when the Supreme Court said that spending equals speaking, that gave rich Americans a tremendous advantage in the competition to make points in the public sphere. This ruling says that using Facebook is a form of speaking, too, so it deserves protection.
The First Amendment lives. Let’s keep it going.