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Your Facebook “Likes” Are an Expression of Free Speech

'Like' away, Facebook activists. Your thumbs ups are constitutionally protected

Photo: Adam Fagen

Status stalkers and slacktivists rejoice, your pixelated thumbs ups are now a legally protected form of free expression, guarded by the full weight of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. This week a federal appeals court ruled that “Liking” something on Facebook is a form of speech,” says the Wall Street Journal.

“On the most basic level, clicking on the ‘like’ button literally causes to be published the statement that the User ‘likes’ something, which is itself a substantive statement,” wrote Judge Traxler for the court, which ruled unanimously on the Facebook issue.

The case that lead to the ruling, says the Atlantic, “has been watched closely, and for good reason. It’s obvious that First Amendment freedoms extend to the Internet. It’s more obvious still that the expressions and discussions that happen to be mediated through fiber-optic cables are precisely the kind of thing Mr. Madison and his merry band of misfits envisioned when they went out of their way to write the Bill of Rights as extensively as they did.”

Internet communications of the regular kind are already protected, but this decision adds a new level. “Clicking a button is, per the decision, a protected form of speech.”

No word yet on whether retweets actually are endorsements.

More from Smithsonian.com:

How Pixar and Psychology Helped Facebook Design Its Emoticons
We’re Better at Remembering Facebook Statuses Than Book Lines

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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