A sheriff in Virginia demanded loyalty from his employees, even on Facebook. He was running for re-election and found out that some of his employees had “Liked” his opponent on Facebook. The sheriff told the employees that they would be out of jobs if he were re-elected. He was re-elected and he fired them. They sued.
The trial court did not think that the click on Facebook was an expression entitled to First Amendment protection and dismissed the case. Upon appeal, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision. The Circuit Court found that the “like” button was a “substantive statement of support” which is protected by the First Amendment. Clicking on “like” was pure speech and was also protected as symbolic expression. It was the equivalent of putting a sign up on your front lawn. The case will now proceed to trial.