Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is about to become embroiled in a legal battle, and for once, it’s one I am glad to see them join. Hampton County, Virginia is the setting for this story, and it’s a juicy one.
Six employees of the Hampton County Sheriffs office were fired in 2009 for “Liking” the incumbent sheriff’s opponent in the election. Liking involves clicking on a thumbs up icon on Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) to indicate you agree with what is one the page. These six employees each clicked the “Like” button on the page of the sheriffs opponent’s page, and the end result is what they were relieved of duty.
The employees have filed a suit, citing that their freedom of speech is taken away when they are persecuted for expressing their likes and desires online. The judge ruled at the time that “liking a Facebook page is insufficient speech to be protected by the constitution.
Can you believe this guy? If the person in question had announced over the radio, or run an ad in the paper saying “I like So & So for Sheriff”, then that would have been protected, but clicking on a button, which essentially proclaims the same message is not enough to be protected.
Since when does the government or the judicial system have the right to tell any American citizen that they did not say enough to be protected by the Constitution of the United States? What happens when they start telling citizens they have said too much to be protected? It is an outrage that these peace officers were fired, and an even more blatant outrage that a member of the judicial branch of the legal system they protected would dare tell them that their rights were not protected.
What does Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) have to say about all of this? Thankfully, they take issue to the idea of American Citizens being bullied via their social network. Facebook has stepped up to the plate, and filed documents which indicate their desire to protect freedom of speech on the Internet.
The friend-of-the-court briefing, which was filed by Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), shows that the social networking powerhouse is willing to do legal battle to protect the rights of its users. Their filing claims that “Liking” a Facebook page is a statement of core speech and therefore should be protected by the Constitution.
I agree wholeheartedly with Facebook in this matter. It’s time we stood up for the right to express ourselves freely. This is not the first time in recent weeks that we have heard of political power being used in an attempt to quell free speech. Chick-Fil-A, a nationwide fast food chain came under fire in the last few weeks, regarding statements made by CEO Don Cathy, who said he supported the Bible’s view of marriage. It does not matter where you stand, or what you believe on any issue in America, you have the right to express those beliefs and opinions, so long as you don’t infringe upon the rights of another citizen by doing so. It’s time Americans wake up and realize that we will lose our rights if we don’t stand up for them. I for one “Like” Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) for taking a stand in this case.