Should a Facebook “like” be protected free speech?
- “Like” users most certain of who would see their “like” expected recipients to understand their meaning.
- Those who felt they had sent a message with a “like” were sure that recipients understood.
- Participants believed when using “like” on political content that their posts were constitutionally protected.
- Those using “like” to convey a message believed that this should be protected by the First Amendment.
The most common interpretations for “like” amongst participants were “agree,” “support,” and “generally endorse” a person, place, or idea. Overall, participants believed that a “like” was akin to speech as described in the First Amendment.
The twist in the tale is that on appeal, the Bland v. Roberts judgment was reversed, finding that the thumbs up indeed qualified for protection. “In both offline and online domains, each community of social practice negotiates its own language conventions and creates its own democracy of meaning. The parsing of the First Amendment will continue to be influenced by these communities,” note the study’s authors, Susan H. Sarapin of Troy University and Pamela Morris of the University of Wisconsin—La Crosse. They finish by urging further research on the “chilling effect” and its potential negative impact on freedom of speech online.
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