21.08.2012 To ‘like’ or not to ‘like’? That is the question.

Why clicking ‘like’ on a Facebook page could get you fired….Yes. Really.

Whether it’s to win a competition, to help propel a friend’s band to stardom or simply to show off your good taste in music, we are all used to ‘liking’ Facebook pages.

We press this simple four letter word for millions of reasons (sometimes awkwardly without realising) but just imagine if one click of a button you got fired. Yes. Fired.

Not exactly what you might bargain for but this is exactly what happened to American Daniel Ray Carter Jnr. Carter and five colleagues ‘liked’ a fan page dedicated to Jim Adams, who was running against their boss and incumbent Hampton sheriff B.J. Robert in 2009. None surprisingly, this ‘like’ was very much unliked by their boss and resulted in their swift dismissal.

Carter filed a lawsuit claiming unfair dismissal but the court ruled that ‘liking’ something is not under the protection of free speech because he hasn’t actually said anything.

Believing that this decision was unfair, Carter and the America Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have decided to defend their view in the US Court of Appeals. They believe that ‘likes’ on Facebook and retweets on Twitter should be protected under the right to free speech as it “tells the world about one’s personal beliefs, interests and opinions” and that “the ease of these actions does not negate their expressive nature”. The court is still making a decision.

It doesn’t need to be said that Facebook is becoming an increasingly integral part of our daily lives but how far should it go? Should a virtual ‘like’ be seen as worthy as an actual uttered or published statement?

Some people hold the view that because it is so easy to press this button it is not communicating anything; it’s merely a function of a social media platform.

But isn’t that like saying that wearing a political campaign badge, which probably takes an effortless second to pin to your jacket, is not communicating anything as it is just a badge?

We have the right to wear campaign badges and not be penalised for it (even though others may disagree) so shouldn’t we have the right to click ‘like’ on Facebook and have the same protection?

Of course, it needs to be acknowledged that the logistics of a virtual button means it could be pressed accidentally or clicked by a cunning ‘frapist’. Therefore, some ‘likes’ may demonstrate nothing more than that you need to be more careful with logging out of your social media profiles.

However, if you are ‘liking’ a political party’s Facebook page, surely you might as well be exclaiming from the top of your lungs “I like this party and all it stands for”.

Facebook has weighed in on the debate, saying that the ‘like’ is ‘the 21st-century equivalent of a front-yard campaign sign.’

What do you think? Are your Facebook ‘likes’ an expression of your opinions and beliefs? Let us know….