Facebook ‘Likes’ Aren’t a Form of Protected Speech

From Courthouse News:

“Liking” a Facebook page does not qualify for First Amendment protection, a federal judge ruled, dismissing claims that a Virginia sheriff improperly monitored the virtual support of six employees.
As November 2009 elections loomed. B.J. Roberts, the sheriff of Hampton, Va., allegedly learned that six of his employees were actively supporting one of his opponents in the election, Jim Adams. Several employees had recently expressed their support for Adams by clicking the “like” function on Adams’ Facebook page and by attending a barbeque fundraiser.
Roberts then called a department meeting in which he advised the staff to get on the “long train” which him, rather than ride the “short train” with Adams, according to the six employees’ complaint.
After Roberts won re-election, he fired several employees, including three civilian workers and three uniformed deputy sheriffs who supported Adams.
Bobby Bland, Daniel Carter, David Dixon, Robert McCoy, John Sandhofer and Debra Woodward sued Roberts in the Eastern District of Virginia for violating their First Amendment rights.