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Facebook “Likes” Are Now Legally Protected Speech

Daily Ticker

You gotta "like" this.

According to the U.S. justice system your "likes" on Facebook are protected by the first amendment - free speech now applies to the social networking site.

It's difficult to imagine judges arguing about the nuances of Facebook (FB) but it happened in Hampton, Virginia where a deputy sheriff claims he was fired after "liking" the page of his bosses opponent in the race for city sheriff. According to court papers, after learning of the Facebook "likes" the Sheriff told his deputy, "you've make your bed now you're going to lie in it, after the election you're out of here."

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The appeals court decision partially reverses a previous district ruling that claimed the "liking" of a Facebook page was insufficient "speech to merit constitutional protection." In his reversal, U.S. Circuit Judge William Traxler wrote that liking a political candidates page is the "internet equivalent of displaying a political sign in one's front yard, which the Supreme Court has held is substantive speech."

Six former employees of Hampton Sheriff B.J. Roberts have filed suit claiming they were also dismissed in 2009 after "liking" the competition.

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After hearing of the win Facebook released a statement saying they were "pleased the court recognized that a Facebook 'like' is protected by the first amendment." Facebook went on to say that its "like" button is essential to its 500 million users and that using the button is the equivalent of standing on a street corner and announcing your endorsement of a political candidate.

In the video above, The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task and Yahoo Finance technology reporter Aaron Pressman discuss the merits of the case and what it means for Facebook users going forward.

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