For once, I agree with the ACLU.
Yeah, you read that right.
During the past few weeks, a 2009 lawsuit has resurfaced in the news. The gist: Daniel Carter, an employee of a Virginia county sheriff’s office, liked his boss’ political opponent on Facebook. Shortly thereafter, he and a few of his like-minded (pun intended) colleagues were out of the job.
And a district court ruled this constitutional.
Hello? Does the First Amendment suddenly stop applying when you log into Facebook? Absolutely not. Facebook officials put it well: “If Carter had stood on a street corner and announced, ‘I like Jim Adams for Hampton sheriff,’ there would be no dispute that his statement was constitutionally protected speech.” What if he had posted a status update saying the same thing?
Just imagine the hell the media would raise if, say, Governor Perry’s office fired someone for liking Bill White or Kay Bailey Hutchison. It would be in the headlines for weeks.
Any way you look at it, a like is speech. Though it may just take one click, liking voluntarily broadcasts a statement to users’ connections. For politicians, it could imply support in the election – or just interest in his or her posts. (I certainly don’t support all the politicians I follow on social media!) That’s speech if I ever heard it.
Politics and public service are separate for a reason. Until the line between polite disagreement and insubordination is crossed, it shouldn’t matter whether government employees vote for – or like – their bosses or not. It would be inappropriate for employers to ask such a question, and it’s even worse to fire them for the answer.