Umass Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research Blog

Fired Over “Liking” Something!?

Happy Wednesday everyone! This week we come to you with a controversial issue, so please leave us your thoughts after you read!

This past Monday a CNN article noted, a Virginia sheriff’s deputy was fired after he “liked” his boss’ political opponent on Facebook. Daniel Ray Carter Jr. was among 5 other employees that were fired by B.J. Roberts, sheriff of Hampton, VA.

Mr. Carter took legal action to fight against his boss’ decision. He believes his action to “like” the page should be protected by his First Amendment right to free of speech. Unfortunately, the judge’s ruling didn’t fall in his favor. The Virginia judge stated, “free-speech protections don’t kick in when someone doesn’t actually say something,” according to the CNN article. He also stated, “liking a Facebook page is insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection.” In response, Carter is filing an appeal.

Advocates on Carter’s side said his “like” should be protected by his right to freedom of speech. In a sense, hitting the “like” button is saying you like a particular object, quote, person, or restaurant that has a Facebook page, but you aren’t actually there to say it. Ads, billboards, and commercials for companies and products all tell you to “Like us on Facebook” or “follow us on Twitter” to gain support so does that mean all the likes and followers those pages mean nothing just because they didn’t actually say it?

Facebook itself made a brief to the court, saying that a “like” for a political candidate is “the 21st-century equivalent of a front-yard campaign sign.” People can place signs on their lawns in support of a candidate, but why can’t they do it on Facebook or any other social networking site? Now some employees must fear if their actions could get them fired? Hard to think in an age that is growing around social media ..

On the judge’s side, he made a judgment that he believed was sound based upon a scenario that is still new to the courts. Since technology is ever-changing, it’s hard to determine what is right or not at times. Since not many cases have revolved around these issues in the past, there’s not much to go on so it comes down to the judge and how they feel about the situation. In Carter’s case, the First Amendment protects against speech, not clicking on a “like” button, even if the button can be classified as a person is “saying” they like something.

In both situations we can agree, but in a growing age of technology and expression it seems harsh to fire an employee about their views. Though Carter didn’t say he liked his boss’ opponent or put a sign on his front lawn to promote it, he did it another way. The way of the 21st-century — he “liked” it on Facebook. What do you think? leave your thoughts in the comments below! Until next week everyone…

CNN Article:


Filed under: Social Media

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