Like, Free Speech?

I don’t usually write about news or controversial articles on my blog, but I can’t resist this one.  I just read an online article “Is Liking Something On Facebook An Act Of Free Speech?” on WebProNews.

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“Last year, a Virginia judge ruled that a Facebook “like” is not protected by the First Amendment. The story goes like this: Deputy Sheriff Daniel Ray Carter of Hampton, Virginia “liked” the page of “Jim Adams for Hampton Sheriff.” Carter’s boss, Sheriff B.J. Roberts, saw this, and then when Roberts won the election against Adams, Carter was fired. Carter claimed it was the Facebook “like” that led to his termination. He sued, but the judge determined that a “like” is not protected free speech.”  “Is Liking Something On Facebook An Act Of Free Speech?”

I like news articles, that’s the essence of the article in the first paragraph. As I read the article, I got heated up inside because I press like a lot, but I am VERY careful on Facebook even though I no longer work for someone.  What do you think about this?

A year or two ago a friend of mine posted something on FB that caused people to talk about her loyalty to the organization that employed her.  She insisted that she was protected, and she could say whatever she wanted and not be fired for it.  Is that true?  Was she protected?

Another friend of mine posted a cartoon picture that I found offensive, and I jumped all over him about it.  My concern wasn’t just that I was offended by the innuendo of the drawing, but he was a teacher, and I would hate to see him have problems in his school because it was posted.  He claimed he didn’t post it.  Probably what happened was that he pressed LIKE and it automatically posted on his wall.  WHATEVER – there it was!  My thought about both friends was why kick yourself in the foot over something on FB?  Be careful what you post and what you LIKE!!!!  Nonetheless, would I have gone to battle for either of these friends?   ABSOLUtELY, I would!!!!

Now the question goes back to liking.  It seems like a small thing to press a like button, but is it?  Most importantly,do you think should you be constitutionally protected when you press like?  What does pressing like mean to you?

 

Author: Marsha

Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, author, blogger and retired teacher/consultant. Read more about me here. http://wp.me/P7tP3I-2

52 thoughts on “Like, Free Speech?”

  1. OOOh DEEAR, should I click “like” above, or will I get in trouble? Good post. This very concern has me very reluctant to say much of anything controversial online. Facebook seems one of the worst. My facebook is kept within only a few good friends and privacy is set very high, thanks to Babs skill and help. I am moving more away from Facebook and into safer waters. I know employers check social networks for hires all the time. If “crap” comes up, the job seeker is toast. No laws prevent this. The advice is to like you said, watch what you post. The Big Brother thing. Worst is that this stuff stays online nearly forever. I feel WordPress is safer, but still, safe and not sorry. That photo of you with the lampshade on your head that someone or you post online can really be a downfall. 😦

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    1. Marsha, I have written my first comment seeing here only a title “like, free speech” and a “like” graphic symbol. Your text was invisible.

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    2. That is always a great topic, but this post was more about free speech. Even though I think people should be careful about what they say and post on the internet, I don’t believe that they don’t have the right to say it – other than hate speech – or even unkind speech. That is where the discussion becomes a discussion about interpersonal communications. However, when you LIKE something, what does that say to the world?

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  2. A couple of things come to mind with your post, which is interesting and timely. First, I believe a private employer has the right to terminate an employee if the latter is doing something that puts the organization in a bad light. Now, that doesn’t mean I agree with firing someone for “liking” something on Facebook, or even for something they’ve written on Facebook or elsewhere. However, the problem is you have to draw the line somewhere: I think many would agree that someone who posts anti-Semitic rants or some other tripe runs the risk of portraying their employer in a bad light. But what’s the cut off? There really is no universal standard for what is offensive, and therefore it should be left up to the employer to decide. I personally don’t want the government determining what’s offensive and what isn’t.

    On the other hand, companies that terminate employees for relatively innocuous reasons such as a difference in opinion, even a serious difference in opinion, ultimately hurt themselves if they’re letting good people go. If my company calls me in and fires me because I posted a picture of a Confederate flag, or of a Gay Rights parade, or something else deemed controversial by someone somewhere, is this the type of company I want to be working for? Is this the type of company that’s going to be around for the long haul?

    Of course, government employees being terminated for their opinions is a different matter because we’re talking about public money and the fact that the public has the right to the best possible service available, even in those in charge may not always agree 100 percent with the views and ideas of their employees. Allowing government managers to fire employees because of something they “like” on Facebook would seem to be a bad precedent. It makes it easier to discriminate against people with different ideas.

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        1. As is yours! Yours is rich in knowledge and great stories that I never knew. There’s always something to learn when you study history. When it’s personalized, it’s so much more interesting! 🙂

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  3. I think you still need to be carefu lwhat you say on facebook, always assuming, who can read it. It is not nice to post inculting things or talking badly about or behind someone’s back. No be like me and say openly something mice like – I love Manny. 🙂

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    1. Of course, writing something may be different than just pressing LIKE. But is pressing LIKE on something rude or cutting or offensive the same as actually saying it???? Which is worse? Or are they the same? It’s so much more pleasant to hear nice things, like “I love Manny!” 🙂

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        1. haha NEVER? No, you would NEVER do that because you are honestly one of the nicest people in the world! (And I know people world-wide who would say the same thing about you! 🙂

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  4. To me this all comes down to common sense. If someone pays your wages you have a responsibility not to abuse them in public. I exempt whistle blowers. By ‘liking’ something you endorse a view. If you have an issue with your employer you should take it up directly, not snipe from a social media site. Dislike. If the issues are a matter of principle and you can not compromise, resign. Go somewhere you feel comfortable. My wife has a very small circle of FB friends – maybe 10 – and she worries about confidentiality and security. I have maybe 150, mostly from photography and wildlife circles. I set all my privacy settings as high as possible. But if you use FB you need to accept a trade off. That trade is off the risk that your data will be abused. It happens all over the place. it shouldn’t but it does. WordPress is worse in my view because we distribute our lives in the public domain. We voluntarily give up control. Someone could easily reconstruct most of my life from my blog. The chances of that happening are small enough for me not to worry but I understand those who do. You make a conscious choice. You also like WP articles and leave comments. I guess my status (retired) means I don’t worry about employers any more but I did. I don’t consciously take political positions, I don’t take positions on religion but I am sure people can work out where I stand. Don’t be paranoid but use common sense.

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    1. Thank you Andrew for such a well-reasoned response. It does help to be retired, as you say, because we are not dependent on a specific boss to insure our income. Nonetheless, I still want to be careful because I am involved in professional organizations. I suppose that someone reading my blog could reconstruct my life and do something weird with it, but why would they bother? It’s a lot of work!

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  5. I avoid ‘liking’ or commenting on political or offense FB or WP posts. I’m semi-retired and just write now so I don’t have to worry about an employer, but I have a reputation to uphold. I think a lot of what is posted online will come back to bite people big time (for example – presidential elections in 20 years time where people start pulling ‘antique’ comments and likes out of the blue to damage candidates reputations). Having studied law early in my life I know never to write anything that can be used against you 😉

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  6. FB is really starting to worry me. I’ve tried to make “my wall” accessible only to my friends, not to the general public, but you never know how the information will be used. But FB is tricky. I just noticed that I hadn’t checked the box for “keeping all future posts” available only to friends, so public could see them. Really!? Apparently, I had only checked the box to keep “past” posts accessible only to friends. Creepy, and worth thinking about. I also have unlinked FB from Goodreads so taht my friends won’t be spammed every time I like a book. It’s irritating. And I can’t figure out how to delete things from my “traveled to” timeline. They make it easy to put information in, but they don’t make it easy to delete.

    Thanks for posting this!

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    1. Good point. I think the same is true of most social medias, but I’m not as familiar with others. I had someone send me an offensive twitter. I didn’t know, and opened it, and it was graphic pornography. I tried to delete it, and finally after researching I found out that I can delete something that I write and post on Twitter, but I can’t delete something that someone sends me. So there it sits in my Twitter feed. YIKES! If I was getting tons of stuff like that, I’d have to shut down my Twitter account and start over. It’s like anything else, you build up friendships, and I hate to shut them off.

      I still like FB, but I understand what you are saying. All my FB friends automatically get my blog on FB. I’ve had a few unfriend me for various reasons, mostly that they closed FB totally. I have a few who have removed themselves from my feed, which is ok, too. But anyone who uses FB does so, somewhat at their own risk – of being spammed. I have some friends that ask me over and over again to play games. I don’t play them, so I have game request piled up. I just ignore them, but I still write to the people who send me the requests, I just don’t play the games. I guess the bottom line is that FB is a communication tool, and we use it with caution and respect of others, but we also realize that others can make decisions about what they do with us, too. 🙂 Thanks for your long and thoughtful comment, Jilanne 🙂

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  7. As you know MVBF Marsha I deleted my FB page a while back. You used to know when I was on line with the green dot on the FB messenger, but now you don’t know when I am awake or asleep. Of course I am asleep at the moment 😉
    The LIKE button is a great way of showing the blogger that x,y or z has visited. I press LIKE on your posts because I have visited 😉 And I like what you write or photographs that you publish. AND I like California. AND I like Manny. AND ……. 😀 Ralph xox 😀

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    1. You forgot “AND I LIKE YOU!” I know I miss MFR’s green dot on my FB page. But I still get to communicate with you, so I’m ok. If you had cut me off without a word, I’d be hurt. But you let us FB friends down easily. I’m wondering how you can write this nice response while you were asleep. 🙂 Marsha 🙂 xoxox

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  8. Interesting dilemma. I think one has to be careful with FB – with everything. My daughter worries that a future employer will see my posts about her. There’s nothing incendiary, but who knows. Liking to me is a harmless “thumbs up” kind of recognition. But if you’re worried about what others may think or how an employer may perceive it, don’t do it!

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  9. What an interesting conversation. I LIKE that. However there are times when LIKE is not what you really want to say about a comment on FB and there is little else to indicate you were there and find the subject less than appealing to your tastes. Share certainly would not be appropriate and neither would a comment. So, I just usually pass on doing anything if I don’t care for the Facebook post.
    God bless

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  10. Sadly, I think that although it may be free speech, you cannot prevent there being consequences from that speech. I know employers look at FB, friends from work and church, parents and relations – there are myriad ways to offend someone by clicking like. I put up a post last fall about prayer flags in the woods and was inundated by church friends worried that I had left the faith because I found beauty in some Buddist flags. I am pretty careful about what I click these days.

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  11. I would think it’s free speech, but why would that have protected the job of the deputy?
    Many people lose their jobs for saying things out loud. The right to speak is protected, but that doesn’t portect the speaker from consequences.

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  12. Your right about FB be careful what you like or say because you might even get the IRS up your behind. The other day on tv there was a guy in San Diego having people sign a petition to give up their first amendment rights. He was telling the people as they were signing the petition that they should not have a right to free speech. The people were singing it anyway. Dumb

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    1. That is dumb! People don’t realize that our country was and is based on an experiment that people can govern themselves. If we don’t protect and defend our own rights to do that, the experiment dies. That’s why I work with California Council for the Social Studies to advocate to make sure that social studies stays in the core curriculum in public education. All children have the right to learn about history, geography, economy and civic education K-12! It’s not tested nationally. If it’s not tested, will it be taught in an era of high stakes testing? WE hope so, but that is why I remain active even AFTER retirement. Kids matter, and in one generation, we can lose it all – out of pure ignorance.

      You must have pressed my speak button, Jim! Thanks for sharing! You’re a dear friend! 🙂

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  13. Pingback: URL
      1. It is a very strange thing here, we have no right, according the constitution and we certainly have nothing in concrete as you do, so in theory we have none, but there are rights that the laws governing us give us, which of course can be taken away as well. We do have free speech, but only if it is prejudice, discriminating or racist. Then you get into a lot of trouble, which a well known tv presenter is finding out about now.

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        1. Interesting! I had to look up on the internet about Australian independence, and I had no idea that relative independence from UK was so recent! So the reason you have rights is that English law gave you rights very similar to ours. Free speech shouldn’t protect racist talk anyway! 🙂

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