According to the Huffington Post, “The case revolves around six employees who were fired by Hampton Sheriff B.J. Roberts after they supported his re-election opponent in 2009. One of those workers, Daniel Ray Carter, had ‘liked’ the Facebook page of Roberts’ opponent.”
Facebook and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are battling in appeals court to get a former decision, by U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson, overturned. He said that a mere ‘like’ did not constitute speech or constitutional protection. He was further quoted as saying, “In cases where courts have found that constitutional speech protections extended to Facebook posts, actual statements existed within the record.”
Roberts said that that wasn’t necessarily the reason the employees were fired, as he wanted to replace some of them with sworn deputies. He also said, however, that what they did (supporting his opponent) “hindered the harmony and efficiency of the office.”
Sounds more like grade school resentment of differing opinions.
The ACLU argued that, ”It is binding First Amendment law that irrespective of an employee’s position, a public employer cannot terminate him or her for speech on a matter of public concern unrelated to his or her job duties.”
Facebook, meanwhile, seems to be concentrating on establishing ‘likes’ as protected speech, saying, “If Carter had stood on a street corner and announced, ‘I like Jim Adams for Hampton sheriff,’ there would be no dispute that his statement was constitutionally protected speech.” The company went on to say, “Carter made that very statement; the fact that he did it online, with a click of a computer’s mouse, does not deprive Carter’s speech of constitutional protection.”
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