On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued its decision in Bland v. Roberts, a case that made waves last year when a district court judge ruled that a Facebook “like” was “insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection.” But never fear, Facebook fans: the expressive value of a “like” has been reaffirmed.
The case arose after six employees in the Sheriff’s Department of Hampton, Virginia, were terminated from their jobs, allegedly for supporting Sheriff B.J. Roberts’s opponent during the Sheriff’s 2009 re-election campaign. This support took many forms, including a bumper sticker, a comment to a co-worker about the Sheriff’s campaign material, attending a campaign cookout for the Sheriff’s opponent, and, notably, the aforementioned Facebook “like.” The six employees filed suit in federal court for wrongful termination, and the Sheriff responded by denying that their termination was retaliatory, and arguing that even if it was he had the right to terminate them for disloyalty due to their positions of responsibility.
But he also made the curious claim that the various expressions of support at issue (including the "like") were not speech, e.g.:
Carter’s and McCoy’s action of simply adding their names to Adams’ Facebook page is not sufficient evidence of constitutionally protected expression. There is no “speech.” read more »