Deputy sheriff takes firing over a Facebook “like” to court

A Virginia sheriff’s deputy has been fired for liking his boss’s political opponent — on Facebook.

Now Daniel Ray Carter Jr. is fighting back in court, arguing that a “like” should be protected by his First Amendment right to free speech. It’s a case that could settle a significant question at a time when hundreds of millions of people express themselves on Facebook, sometimes merging their personal, professional and political lives in the process.

According to court documents, the case began when Sheriff B.J. Roberts of Hampton, Virginia, fired Carter and five other employees for supporting his rival in a 2009 election.

Carter’s offense? Clicking the omnipresent Facebook thumbs-up to follow the page “Jim Adams For Hampton Sheriff.” Roberts, of course, won re-election, leading to the firings…

“Liking a Facebook page is insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection,” Judge Judge Raymond A. Jackson wrote in his May ruling, because it doesn’t “involve actual statements.”

Carter is appealing that ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals…Carter’s advocates argue the judge’s definition of free speech doesn’t match existing law.

“The judge is wrong in the sense that the Facebook button actually says the word ‘like,’ so there are actually words being used,” said Aden Fine, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed a brief supporting Carter’s appeal. “And there’s a thumbs-up symbol, which most people understand means they, literally, like something.”

Facebook itself also has weighed in with a brief to the court, saying that a “like” for a political candidate is “the 21st-century equivalent of a front-yard campaign sign.”

Blogging daily at a few sites, I admit to sometimes being frustrated by a slow news day. However, there are a couple of qualities of life among our species I can always count on to show up somewhere, somehow. One is the dumb crook of the day, another is the picture of the day – we are a delightfully creative species and that has been enhanced by the Web and digital imaging.

This post fits into the category of pea-brained, egregious bureaucrat who thinks the world revolves around him and his pitiful little career.

I hope Daniel Ray Carter Jr wins his appeal. I hope he then sues his former boss for everything but his house, his wife and his dog.

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